[From a pastor’s notebook; the names and places have been changed to protect identities.]
He is in the ICU at the local hospital. His heart is failing. He has a pacemaker, but it is not much help since the muscles of his heart are very weak. Why? I don’t know.
Before I went up to see him, I ran into Claire [a member of the church and a nurse at the hospital] in the lobby. She has been involved with Stan’s care off and on for the past couple of days. She has access to and an understanding of his medical record. She reported to me that the doctors are not very optimistic about Stan’s prognosis.
When she saw him two days earlier to help him get ready for admission, he was, she reported, very, very anxious, very much afraid. She suggested that he was afraid of the immanence of his death.
When I saw him this afternoon, he seemed physically very tired. But I did not find him especially agitated or distressed, just completely worn out — maybe too worn out to be agitated or terrified anymore.
I wonder what faith he really has now in the face of death. He, a very long-time member of the church, and I have never really talked about his faith. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it is true. I know how easy it is for people to sit in the pews of those old, long-established mainline churches for decades and never really be taught the essentials of our faith. So many Presbyterian congregations have, through the twentieth century, almost studiously avoided giving any real attention to teaching the basic truths of our faith. And that is certainly true of this congregation. In its living memory there has been very little real, clear, and solid biblical and theological teaching from the pulpit.
It is with a pang of guilt and sadness that I realize that almost certainly Stan is standing naked and empty-handed on a pile of loose sand as the great wave of death rolls inexorably toward him, and he has nothing to hold onto, nothing to support him, nothing to preserve him as the breaker crests over his head.
And now can I help him now? What can I give him at this late hour? His mind as well as his body are wearing out. Does he have enough mental, spiritual energy to get any grip on the truths that can be his hope now? Will I ever have a moment alone with him, so that I can have the freedom to raise this matter with him, and he can have the freedom to answer me from his heart?
© 2009 Gary A. Chorpenning