Dick was 44 years old when admitted to Hospice for lung cancer. He was slender with long grey hair and a full grey beard. He looked like a cross between an old hippie and a mountain man. He was an independent contractor and like many small contractors, he survived from job to job, had little financial reserves, and no pension plan. Terminally ill, financially destitute and with “nowhere to live” he turned to his ex-wife, Jeannie, who being moved with compassion, took him in. Dick assured me, “We lived as brother and sister until we got remarried,” which was only three weeks before enrolling in hospice.
My career, my adventure in hospice, was launched in 1993 and Dick and Jeanne were two of my first clients. I vividly remember our first encounter. I accompanied their nurse, Dawn, on her routine visit. As we approached the door, apprehensions raced through my mind. Will they be open to talking with a social worker? What if we just don’t click? How do I explain my role without bringing up issues that they may not be ready to talk about? Having no idea what to expect, I took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold.
As expected, I encountered the unexpected. I surely didn’t expect to be kneeling at their coffee table, praying together and I definitely didn’t expect to be the one being prayed for. Neither did I expect to be so warmly and immediately embraced by two complete strangers. But we didn’t stay strangers for long. Our relationship reminds me of what Paul Tournier, Christian physician, wrote in his book, “A Listening Ear”- “The feeling that he is understood is what helps a person to live, to face any problem, however difficult, without being false to himself. It is a moment of truth, of confidence, of deep emotion, for him,but also for me. I have not understood only with my head, but with my heart. I too will never be the same again.”
The weeks passed and Dick’s condition deteriorated. He could no longer be home alone. Jeannie’s employer granted her time off without pay, but she couldn’t afford to take it, hence the dilemma. As we talked, the thought flashed in my mind, “Tell them that Jesus will meet them at the crossroads, that I’m already there before them.” (Before you start questioning my sanity, I didn’t hear voices.) My heart raced, and I trembled inside, “They’ll think I’m crazy! Is God really speaking? What if it’s just my imagination? What if I tell them and things don’t work out?”
I was afraid of misrepresenting God, and of giving Dick and Jeannie false hope. But the exhortation within me was so strong that I was more fearful of remaining silent, of being disobedient. So I told them, “I’ve never said anything like this to anyone before, but I really think God wants me to tell you that Jesus will meet you at the crossroads, that He’s already there before you.” I offered no explanations because I had none. All I left Dick and Jeannie with that day were tears in their eyes.
When I returned to my office that Friday afternoon, I felt prompted to call a few pastors to ask them if they’d be willing to take up a special offering on Sunday. On the following Monday, I collected $1,100 and delivered it to Dick and Jeannie. So Jeannie took off work for as long as the money would last.
If it weren’t for one simple miraculous detail, it would be reasonable for you to conclude that I made the promise come true. But you see, after Dick died, Jeannie told me, with tears in her eyes, “The amount of money that you gave me was exactly what I would have made from the time I took off work until the day that Dick died. No more and no less. How could anybody have known? ”
I don’t pretend to know how or why God works the way He does and I have no desire to try to duplicate what He did for Dick and Jeanie. To be honest, I’m more of a “Doubting Thomas” and I don’t like going out on a limb. But I do believe that whether or not we get what we pray for, He always meets us at the crossroads, that He’s already there.
“Be content with such things as you have. For He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-356-2525.