Easter is coming. Last Easter season I told this story. I want to share it with you again in these days before Easter:
A nurse walked a young man down the hall of the nursing home. It was a long hallway, smelling of pine cleaner. Several people were in wheelchairs parked in the corridor. One looked up. Another stared vacantly. Another was slumped over, straining against the restraint that tied her in. The young man and the nurse carefully wound their way around chairs.
The nurse directed the man into a room. As they walked in she announced to the old man in the bed, “He’s here.” There was no response, so the nurse repeated the words many times, eventually getting right up to the old man’s ear. “He’s here,” she said.
Startled, the old man opened his eyes for an instant. Then he closed them again as if his eye lids were simply too heavy to hold open for too long. Sedated against the pain of the illness that was killing him, the old man spent most of the time in a leaden sleep but sometimes he was more alert and drifted in and out of some kind of conscious awareness.
On this evening, the old man could make out the shape of the younger man standing there, whoever he was. With effort, he stretched out his hand, his fingers quivering as he reached out. Instinctively, the younger man grabbed the older man’s hand. The hand was surprisingly warm. The grip much stronger than you would have guessed. Soon their fingers were woven together as the young man sat at the bedside. He squeezed the older man’s hand, gently rubbed his arm, and whispered words that he hoped were comforting.
They sat that way all evening and into the night. Occasionally, the older man would drift into a fitful sleep, but then he would wake up looking at the young man beside him. The nurse came by every now and then with another of the endless cups of coffee the young man sipped throughout the night. Around midnight, or maybe one in the morning, the young man quit looking at his watch. Soon, the room was filled with nothing but silence and something else. This was something you could feel, sense and almost visualize in the two hands that were joined together.
Suddenly, someone dropped a tray or something in the hallway. The young man woke with a start. His head had been resting on the old man’s forearm. Through his sleep-filled eyes, he watched the old man.
There was a gasp. Then, a quick breath. Then, nothing. The old man died. The young man gave that lifeless hand one more squeeze. Tears seeped from his eyes. He gently placed this precious hand on the bed and went to tell the nurse.
The nurse took care of the old man for one last time, while the young man waited in the hallway. The nurse came out. She leaned on the wall next to the young man. She began to offer her sympathy.
“Who was that old man?’ The young man asked.
‘What?” replied the nurse. She was stunned.
“Who was that old man?’ the young man patiently asked again.
“I thought he was your father …”
“No. He isn’t my father,” the young man whispered. “I never saw him before in my life.”
“Then, why didn’t you say something when I took you in the room? You were here all night.”
The young man answered, “I could tell he needed someone. He needed someone to be there. He needed his son to be there. But his son wasn’t here. So, I knew he needed me.”
Please keep our beloved church in your prayers. I remember you in mine. Call on me anytime and I’ll see you soon.
This Sunday, March 25th, Pat’s message will be “The Shadows Just Before Dawn” based on John 12:20-33.
Jesus has a growing awareness that both his teachings and his actions are becoming increasingly controversial. Some are comforted by Jesus’ teachings about God’s love and desire for justice. At the same time, these same teachings are unsettling to so many others. Some even feel threatened by Jesus and others find him dangerous. Jesus wants to shine a different kind of light on our understandings about God, about us, about our relationships, about justice and about all creation. Yet, so many seemed to prefer to simply turn off that light and dwell in the shadows. Why is that? Why is that both then and now?
See you Sunday.