Tuesday, September 6, 2011


One of my ministries is visiting people - in their homes, in the hospital, in nursing homes.

I have just returned from a 5 minutes visit to one of our shut ins. Fortunately she is at the nursing home up the street and when I went to see her she was asleep. I touched her and softly said her name. And then waited. I touched her again - actually several times - on the hand and the arm. And again spoke her name louder and she slept on.
Sleep is so precious to me - I know I need more sleep and have trouble getting to sleep and then wake up too early and cannot get back to sleep. So, to wake this precious woman out of a sleep seems really wrong, so I leave a card and leave.

I said a prayer in the room and wonder if it matters to her that I was there. Or if she will be disappointed that I did not speak louder or touch harder. It is always a difficult call. But I will be back.

Over the years I have learned that the visit I do is very important - to both of us. I have learned to talk less and listen more. Part of the visit is to create a space for her (or him) to share their story. And it is always a gift to hear a part of a person's story. Sometimes it is the same story - but often I hear different parts. Sometimes I think about taking notes so that I will remember for later (like a funeral???) but actually I have given up on that. My memory is getting worse and I have decided that the visit is enough. The moment of my presence with the person which is actually the three of us - me and them and God. That is enough.

My remembering for later is not necessary. It is this moment of sharing the stuff of life that is enough. I have cried with widows over the loss of a son during world war 2, heard stories about their childhood during the depression, learned about long ago divorces or babies who died. And of course, I hear about the present difficulties which may include parthritis, incontinence, and fears about memory and their future. My dad used to say "Old age ain't for sissies" and my visits remind me of that. There are folks that keep going and keep caring about their families and the world. Of course, I wonder how it will be for me when it is my turn to be the one visited.

The other part to the visit is the prayer - which is usually at the end of my visits and often signifies the end. The prayer can surprise me as the words that come to me are often not my words but God's words. The prayer can bring tears to our eyes as I am able to call upon God's healing and life giving presence. God is "in this very room" and we know it.

What I have learned over the years is that the visit is usually not an intrusion. (that was always my fear in the beginning years of my ministry) - it is usually a gift to them. When I visit shut ins in their homes I call ahead to make an appointment and then they have the gift of anticipation - because sometimes I am the only visitor a person may have all week. Sometimes people actually prepare cookies for the visit - and I like it, regardless of my diet - I like it.

I have heard colleagues in ministry complain about these visits to the homebound, but I have to say, that they really one of the best parts of ministry.

So, she is asleep and I will be back. Because in our visiting, we really do share the blessing of God's presence with us.

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