Monday, July 11, 2011

Eternal Moment #2: "The Angel at Death's Bedside"

The morning after Thanksgiving, 1991.
My father's hospital room.
Montclair, New Jersey.

I am 26.

My brother, my mother and I have been summoned with an early morning phone call to my father's bedside in a hospital in northern New Jersey.

He is dying.

He drags each breath with the same labored effort that Marley's ghost hauls his chains across Scrooge's floor, with a loud rattle and shuddering full-body shake. The moments fleetingly pass, but each second in and of itself is torturous.

It's only a matter of a few hours, perhaps a few minutes, before he will be gone forever.

During this nightmare, the angel offers a reprieve of peace.

No, she's not the type of angel you'd imagine, with fluttering wings or ethereal light.

She comes to the hospital dressed as if she herself had received the phone call at 6 a.m. and had hurried from her bed, throwing on whatever pair of slacks that were slung over the most convenient closet hanger and pulling a grey sweatshirt over tussled and curly white hair.

It's the first day I've ever met her (or remembered meeting her) in my entire life, although my mother knows her well. She is an old family friend, my mother tells me. She introduces us, and the woman takes my hand into her soft and warm grasp.

"I love your father, and I love you," she says.

Like the Londoner in the Illinois corn field a few years earlier, the memory of her exact words is a fog to me. Instead, what I can tell you is that her presence exudes peace and comfort. I lock eyes with her as if the sanity of my soul depends on her gaze. She speaks softly, gently. She smiles often, and she sympathetically listens to our report from the doctor and nurses.

Other visitors come, too, but there is something about this woman that sets her apart in an amazing way.

She, like the man of a few years earlier, becomes a miraculous vessel.

Her spirit is pure, genuine, kind, compassionate, lovely, gentle, loving.

Should I go on? Do you get the idea?

To be honest with you, I don't remember when she left the hospital. I remember later seeing her at my father's funeral. But those two encounters, at his deathbed and at his burial, are the only two I ever had with her.

Ironically, she died a few years later.

But I'll never forget her.

Our willingness to be used of God's presence at the most dire of times in people's lives ... it's a profound imperative.

Can you remember a time when you became Jesus for someone else, when you allowed Him to step into your shoes and be His tool?

I don't know if I ever have had the impact on someone that the "angel" had on me. If I ever do, though, I will consider it to be one of the highest of callings, one of the most honorable tasks given.

An angel of mercy at my father's bedside ... not for him ... but for me.

The gift ... the eternal moment ... still lingers in my mind as if it were the strongest and most beautiful perfume.

Someday, I hope to see her again. And when I do, when I am finally in her presence again in Heaven, I will tell her that God used her to be near me when I needed Him the most.

Tune in for Eternal Moment #3: Cold Water in the Sahara.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! everyone should like their family first of all