One night, about five weeks into my chaplaincy program, I was called in to the hospital to sit with a woman the nurses said, “knew she was going to die that night.” When I walk into the room I saw a woman who was sitting up in her bed. Her hair was impeccable and she was just finishing putting on her make-up. She looked very proper, and very much alive. As I started to say excuse me, being sure that I had entered the wrong room, she jumped in to ask me to sit. So I did.
After the introductions she told me that she was going to die that night, but needed to talk to someone before she did. It was hard to hold my judgment, but I was neither a doctor nor that patient, so I went along and listened. She grabbed my hand and told me her life story, she had out lived everyone in her life, including her children. While she looked like a healthy woman in her early seventies, she was actually in her mid nineties.
As she spoke, I learned that she had quite the life! But as she spoke I also learned that she experienced some horrid tragedies and sadness, she lost one child to sickness early in his life, another to war, and the last recently to cancer. But in spite of the tragedies, she was determined to live and not die. She said, “When my second son died in the war, I died a little that day, but I looked to the other mothers whose sons died who had given up on life and I realized that I still had something to live for I had my husband and my daughter.” She looked at me and said “There is more, I had once a dream that God would tell me when it was my time and that my job in this world was to keep going until I had finished what God wanted from me, and he would take me home, God told me this morning, would you pray with me, but not a sad prayer, I want a happy celebration prayer.”
So I prayed, when I walked out of the room I went over to the nurse that called me. “Strange, right?” The nurse said.
I nodded, “There is nothing to indicate that she is going to die tonight, but she insisted, sorry for calling you in but . . .” she continued
I told her it was ok. The next morning I had been called early before the day shift started for another person. After meeting with them I went to check on my new friend and found that she had passed and had died very shortly after I left.
I was amazed, and I was really sad. In that very short time I really got to like this woman, I wanted to hear more of her stories, I wanted to spend time with her I liked her. I ran this by my supervisor and he said.
“Did you hear what you said?” My supervisor said,
I realized that I wanted her to live for me. When he continued, “She has run her race, and it sounds like quite the journey, now she is at peace and knows God’s Glory. Ours in not to judge when and where but to keep going until God calls us home.”
When I though back to the woman’s story, I though about the sadness in her life but then I recognized the witness she must have given and the courage she taught others. I was amazed how at every adversity she adjusted and moved on and while her life was far from perfect, she made it the best it could have been.
While I only knew the woman for a couple hours, her witness and faith have influenced me greatly. She had so many times in her life when she could have given up, but she kept going, and she more then that, she made the best that she could out of everything. She had the endurance when many would have given up and because of her many people’s lives were made better.
Life is full of choices. We can choose to give up or we can choose to continue. When we know that God is with us we can continue and grow despite what might come our way. When we have the trust in God we can find endurance to oone day be reconciled with him.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen