From his sick bed, in his tiny corner of the room, he heard the cautious opening of the door. His eyes remained closed, until he heard the word “Daddy”, followed by someone calling his first name- two attempts to gently awaken him. His head lifted slightly, and through weak eyes, he peered at his visitors- his immediate family members who slowly faded into strangers. After his failed attempts at mumbling a few words, the visitors guessed that perhaps he was trying to get out of bed. The assistance of the nurse was requested and she quickly complied- helping to transfer him into a wheelchair and push him into a common area, inhabited by elderly peers, with a multitude of conditions.
His body was frail- the once healthy weight, melting into skin and bones, with each passing day. He sat in his chair- just barely alert- staring straight ahead into the distance. As the visitors asked questions, he responded with an occasional head nodding gesture. Then before long, his eyes would close and his head would droop again- dozing off into a slumber, lightly drooling.
His visitors watched quietly- unsure of what to do or say, ignorant of what he might be able to comprehend in his current state of mind. The cycle continued for quite some time- attempts to engage in conversation, followed by the harsh realization that he was unable to remain conscious. They decided it might be best to let him return to the tiny bed in the corner- his place of rest and solace.
After the nurses tucked him carefully back into bed, his eyes closed, yet again. The visitors returned to his bedside- the woman he was married to for 19 years, the children they created together, and the grandchildren that he never truly became acquainted with. The nursing home was the only home that the grandchildren knew for him. Each person took their turn- holding his hand tightly, sharing words of encouragement, and praying prayers for his peace.
One of the daughters kneeled by the bedside and surveyed his face- only 60 somethin’ years old, yet skeleton like…not the father that she knew growing up. The man who boasted several degrees and a prestigious career. The man who lit up the room in social settings- most times under the influence of the over-indulgence of an ungodly substance. The man who was full of intelligence. The man who drowned himself in sinful choices that lead to the destruction of his family. The man who she carried so much disdain for. The man who hurt her deeply. The man who caused her curses and burdens that she carried on her back from adolescence into adulthood. He was the same man, but her perspective of him was different-viewed through a heart of immeasurable hurt, but eyes of inexplicable empathy.
Although his eyes were closed tightly, he knew her presence at his bedside. She spoke forgiveness over him. Her heart poured out grace. And the pain and heartache stored up inside of her was met with a powerful dose of grace. She expressed these words:
“Everything in the past is forgiven. Just like God forgives you, we forgive you. We are blessed and everything ended up okay. When we talk about you in the future, we will not speak of it. We will speak of peace. Just peace. It’s all peace now.”
And the man – the same man who was unable to walk or talk or speak- began to cry. Tears streamed down both of his bony cheeks and his frail hands began to tremble. All who surrounded the bed began to cry. Tears of sadness over his condition. Tears of joy knowing that he understood that he had been forgiven. Tears of relief, knowing that he was kept alive long enough for this moment of healing and reconciliation. God had whispered something to this man’s soul in a way that only HE could communicate.
On your sick bed, in your last days, these are the moments that matter. When you lose all physical and mental abilities, this is what remains- you, God, and the demons from your past that haunt and taunt you. Considering this truth might restructure the intentions of our days, the choices in our relationships, and the focus of our hearts, while we are still healthy and flourishing. So that in the end, we can say, “It is well with my soul” and depart in peace.
This is us– our family, our messy story, our personal picture of God’s redemption and the reconciliation that is only possible through His strength and example. A healing circle- long overdue, much needed, and warmly welcomed.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.