Soda explosion? No thanks.

7114275_f520I had a bonus day with my grandson Elijah yesterday. His mom wasn’t feeling well, so he spent the day and night at our house while she got some rest.

The first thing on our agenda: pick up a prescription for mom, along something for her to drink. That doesn’t sound too hard. When we arrived at CVS, we first grabbed some soda and some Gatorade, then made our way back to the pharmacy counter. Determined to be the world’s best two-and-a-half-year-old helper, Elijah insisted on carrying one of the drinks. First the Gatorade. Then the soda. Then the Gatorade. Then the soda. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

There was only one person ahead of us in line at the pickup, but they certainly weren’t in any hurry. My assistant waited with me as patiently as he could, which meant bouncing in place until it was our turn. As I spoke to the tech at the cash register, I heard a man chuckling as he sat and waited off to the side. He enjoyed watching Elijah shake the bottle of soda up and down, occasionally dropping it and chasing it across the floor before picking it up again.

Well, the prescription wasn’t even ready. So first things first. We’re definitely not taking  that soda back home to mom. Back into the cooler it goes. Is that bad? Not for me. No soda explosions on my to-do list.

The store wasn’t big enough to contain Elijah’s energy, so we touched every candy bar in from of the checkout, bought our drink, and got out of there to grab some lunch. We had a lot more fun stuffing fries into our mouths at McDonald’s than we would have had galloping through the aisles in CVS. When we were done, we opted for the drive-through prescription pickup, and we were on our way home.

Yeah, pretty much anywhere we go together is an adventure!

One last visit

Sunset_2007-1Today would probably be my last visit. The last time I saw J. he didn’t look too bad. He had lost some weight, had lost some strength and had to use a walker. The cancer was there, but he didn’t purse treatment. He’d had ninety-one good years, fifty-five of them with an amazing wife. A life well-lived.

Today when I went to visit, I didn’t know what to expect. When I got to the door, his wife said, “He won’t know you’re here.” But when I got to his bed, he looked at me and whispered, “Hello, pastor.” A couple of weeks into hospice care, he had stopped eating and drinking, and slept most of the time. Death crept closer with each moment. But he was home, in his own bed, without pain and with his wife, continuing to live a good life.

Our conversation was brief as I prepared the sacrament, a foretaste of the feast to come. A little bread dipped in wine would be his portion. His wife would receive the rest as she sat on the other side of the bed. I silently thanked God for this moment, probably the last, to give him communion. To give them communion together. I’m no expert, but I knew he didn’t have many more conversations left in him. I knew this would be his last meal on this side of the heavenly banquet.

This family is one of the few who have been at our church longer than me. They joined about a year before I arrived, so I have known them for a long time. I thanked him for his faithfulness, and reminded him, as I had for the last twenty-one years, of God’s faithfulness. I reminded him of Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness, and that place prepared for him by his Savior. After a prayer and the Lord’s prayer, I made the sign of the cross on his head as I spoke the benediction. A reminder of the sign of the cross made on his head and heart at his baptism ninety-one years before, in anticipation of this very moment.

I don’t quickly forget these moments. As a pastor, I get to be a part of many families’ final moments with loved ones. I get to be there in those moments when the temporal and the eternal touch, when heaven meets earth, and when loved ones leave this life for the next. I could tell that God had blessed this family with love, acceptance, hope, and strength. Rather than falling apart as death drew near, they fell into the arms of their Savior a familiar place they had been many times before,

Before I left, I saw and talked with D., his wife. I made sure she was getting the help she needed, got her to promise she would call when anything happened, and talked about J.’s memorial service. For someone as frail as she was, she had strength and composure that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit. I guess that’s why He’s known as the Comforter and the Helper!