Posted in Ministry, visiting

Hospital visit day

Another part of pastoral care is visiting members in the hospital. By grace, all my visits today were at the closest hospital. There have been days when I have had visits in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. But today, I got to stay in my home town of Palm Coast.

I scored a parking spot right outside the main visitor entrance. But since they were painting that area, I had to walk all the way around to reach the doorway. I stopped at the front desk to ask one of the volunteers for a room number for “M”, whom I had seen in ICU two days ago. I had hoped that she had moved, but the very nice volunteer gave me the same room number.

I made my way to the elevator, but not before getting some disinfectant for my hands. I rode the elevator to the second floor and headed to the ICU waiting room. There I called and asked if I could visit “M.” They said, “Come on through.” “M” was there with her husband. She was doing just a little better than my last visit, but was far from being well. The ICU is not a place to stay for long, so I said a prayer with them and headed out. I said another unspoken prayer on the way out for her and for her caregivers. They can use all the help they can get.

I made my way out of ICU and down the hall to see “J” who had been recovering from surgery for the last four days. I hoped he would be just about ready to go home, but he was really having trouble breathing. His surgical site had healed well, but he needed more time to recover fully. I could tell he wasn’t feeling well, so I only stayed long enough to say a quick prayer. I left to let the nurses do their work.

In the seating area by the elevators, I sat to call “J’s” wife and let her know I had stopped by and to make sure she was doing OK. Nervous at first, she soon calmed as we chatted. She would soon be on her way to the hospital.

I thought I had finished my rounds for the day, but as I headed out to my car, I caught sight of a friend, a nurse, whom I had just prayed for this past Sunday. I stopped to talk to “C,” whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. I told her we had prayed for her in church the past Sunday. She brought me up to date on her own condition, her husband, and future treatments. It was a gracious and timely meeting, that was arranged by God. He often makes sure I am in the right place at the right time. And for that, I am thankful.

My visits were done for the day, but on my drive home I had a great conversation with Jesus about all that I experienced. It’s always good to debrief after my rounds.

Posted in Ministry, visiting

Lunch, conversation and communion

Today I took a ride to a nursing home about twenty-five minutes from the church to visit and bring communion to one of our members there. I arrived about half-way through lunch, so I pulled up a chair to the table where Janey and three others were enjoying a meal of country-fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, roll and some cake.

I’m not sure if these folks were having any kind of conversation before I arrived, but they sure were eager to talk once I joined them! After I introduced myself as Janey’s pastor, the man to my right, Clint, let me know that he had been a long time member of the Scottish Reformed church and also a big fan of R. C. Sproul. He explained that he was rehabbing from a stroke. He must have made great progress. I couldn’t detect any lingering symptoms. He was from Orange City, but was really from south of Denver, CO. The flight path from the airport went right over his family’s 280 acre ranch. How he loved watching the planes take off and land, just like I did when my dad would park the car at the end of the runway at the Philadelphia airport. We both were sad that you couldn’t do that these days. You can’t get near a runway anymore.

On the other side of Janey, a quiet man named John slowly and deliberately worked his way through his lunch. He ate every crumb. When no one was watching, he then took Janey’s drink and her piece of cake. She was pretty surprised to find only a bite left when she was ready for dessert! She she confronted him, he just smiled. I said, “That must be pretty good cake!” He smiled even more. Janey asked for and got another piece as well as a glass of ice water. Everyone was happy. John asked me where I was from. He was from Daytona Beach, but knew folks in Holly Hill and Ormond Beach, too.

A third diner didn’t say anything during the meal. But I did get a “Goodbye” from her when I left.

The room was pretty busy as nurses gave out medication and other caregivers gave out meals and collected dishes. I couldn’t take Janey back to her room since her roommate was getting some xrays. So we had communion right there at the table when she was done her lunch. I know the others were listening as I read the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and marveled that so many didn[t return to give thanks. After communion I prayed with her and I know I heard a few other voices when we said the Lord’s Prayer.

I imagine every pastor has ministry moments like this. A little worship service around a table in a nursing home or assisted living facility with some you know very well and others who just happen to be there. They may not remember that moment. They may not remember I was there. But the Lord hasn’t forgotten them and I know He treasures those moments. As the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow and He watches over them.”

On my way home from these visits, I often think, “I hope someone comes to see me one day.” That sentiment reminds me of how valuable those moments are.

Posted in death, Ministry, visiting

Another last visit

Photo by Justin Schüler on Unsplash

I got the phone call last Tuesday just before I headed out the door to visit some church members. But it wasn’t the person whose name showed up on the screen. It was her daughter. Mom wasn’t eating, couldn’t get out of bed, and was receiving twenty-four-hour hospice care. I knew I had to get out there later in the afternoon before they started a second form of medication to get ahead of the pain. It would probably be my last chance to talk with her.

When I arrived I thought, “This must be the place to be.” The driveway and cul-de-sac were full of cars. Inside, I was met by the hospice chaplain, the daughter, and two other hospice workers were in the kitchen. The only thing that surprised me was the quiet. The little Yorkie didn’t come barking to greet me at the door. Yes, this was a different visit.

Just six days before, I had been to this very same house. When I knocked and walked in, the dog came racing to find out who it was and got dibs for my attention. Inside, P. was sitting on the pale green living room sofa, waiting for my arrival. We talked and laughed and caught up on all that had happened since my last visit about a month ago. She was tired from a busy day before, but glad to have some company.

As the usual afternoon storms rolled in, the Yorkie found a secure spot on my lap, nervously shivering after each clap of thunder. She wasn’t going anywhere.

She wasn’t going anywhere during this latter visit, either. Lying quietly at P.’s feet, she was subdued though glad to see me. I can tell. And I know exactly where to scratch.

After a quick conversation with a daughter and the hospice chaplain, I went to the bedroom, where P. was now camped out, on oxygen, wondering when the pain medication would do more than make her feel sleepy. At the side of the bed was a picture of her late husband, whose hospice bed we had sat beside just eleven months ago. It was his retirement picture, signed by all of his colleagues. In a way it was his chance to repay the favor and sit by her bed.

P. had a smile for me and chuckled, “Well, here we go. Not a pretty picture, huh?”

“Looks like you had a rough weekend,” I said.

She said, “Yeah, but what are you going to do?”

We talked a little about how she felt, between sips of ginger ale. Since she was starting to doze off, I didn’t hesitate to ask, “Would you like communion?” As always, she said, “Yes.” As I got the bread and wine ready, I suspected it would be the last time I would bring the sacrament to her. As I spoke the words of our Lord, she closed her eyes to listen. I touched her hand, she opened her eyes, and ate and drank her Savior’s gift of grace and life. I assured her of God’s forgiveness and we prayed.

It is easy to pray in situations like that. We thank God for the care he provides, we commend ourselves into his hands, and speak the prayer our Lord taught us. A quick benediction, and I knew it was time to go.

I got the call Thursday night that she had died after a few days of being unresponsive. I was thankful for the opportunity to visit her that one last time.

Two years ago, I did a memorial service for P.’s mom. Last year for her husband. And now it will be her turn. I am impressed and moved by how she graciously handled both life and death, kind of like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). The worst this world dishes out is nothing compared to the grace God pours into our lives. I am thankful for people like P. who lived out this truth.

The only thing P. worried about was her two grandsons. How she loved them and how they loved her! I wonder what they’ll remember the most about their grandparents. Knowing them and the family, it will be something that brings joy not sadness, and that’s just the way it should be.

The Yorkie didn’t see me out as she usually did. She had work to do. And I understood,.





Posted in Ministry, visiting

Quiet, empty hallways

Photo by Manuel Polo on Unsplash

What a difference the weekend makes! I had to go up to Jacksonville, FL today to visit a couple of people at Baptist Medical Center. I’d been downtown before, so I knew how daunting the traffic and parking could be.

But not on a Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Quiet, empty hallways”