Willing to do something and doing something are sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum. I know many people who are willing to make a sacrifice for family but when it comes down to actually doing it, it never gets done. There is an old saying that goes, “when all is said and done, nothing said was ever done”. We put so much lip service to good deeds and selfless acts but we never get it done.
As I was walking my mom down the hall one day at the hospital, her arm on one arm of mine and my other arm pushing her chemo IV, I noticed several nurses watching me. As mom got to her destination I waited patiently outside the door for her. One of the nurses came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “When I am old I pray that one of my children will be just like you”.
I’m not writing this to toot my own horn. I know I am making a lot of sacrifices for both my parents but it is the right thing to do. My parents sacrificed their lives to raise us and continue to make sacrifices for us. The whole reason they live in this state is to be close to their kids. I seriously do not understand why so many people are hurting and dying and yet their own family won’t sacrifice time away. One lady told me the other day that her son had that week off but had projects at home he wanted to get done so she has been taking a cab to her chemotherapy treatments. I almost cried in her presence. What project can be so important that it takes priority over your own mother? His mother is dying, hurting, tired, sick and scared to die. He was probably painting a room or cleaning out the garage.
As I walked Mom back down to her room we passed an elderly lady in her room, all alone, reading a book. Mom motioned for me to stop. She walked purposely and every step caused her pain. She was unable to see out of one eye and the other eye was losing sight because of a tumor behind it. Her mouth was so dry and inflamed with thrush from the chemo that it was hard for her to talk. Yet she needed to stop and say something to this lady. She slowly turned to face the lady and said, “Do you mind if I interrupt you for a moment?” The lady put down her book and said, with a smile, “not at all”. Mom said, “I wanted to stop and encourage you to keep fighting. Don’t ever give up and give this cancer as much hell as it has been giving you”.
Mom did not have other priorities at that time except to encourage and support a total stranger in her fight for her life even while Mom was fighting for hers. And yet this woman’s family made her take a cab to her chemo. It breaks my heart to think of anyone having to walk this journey alone.
There is so much more happening in the life of someone who is dying than what people see passing in the hallways of the clinic. The support can’t stop. You cannot schedule your support of someone. You cannot pencil in time to spend with a dying loved-one if they truly are one that is loved. The sacrifice of time is daily and many times hourly. You must hide any frustration you have. You must work through the feelings of guilt that overcome you when you are upset that you have no time for yourself. You must work extra hard and use extra energy inside you to hold their hand, walk them across the floor, cut their finger nails, and yes even help them with some of life’s most private and embarrassing tasks. You just do it and you do it without complaining because the time you take today to spend with a dying person is time you will never get back. You can reschedule your room painting, your coffee with friends, your spring cleaning, your me-time because the dying cannot. Their schedule calendar does not go out as far as yours. They don’t have the luxury of time. They don’t have it to waste and yet some of us have the audacity to feel that visiting the sick and dying more than occasionally is a waste of time.
Jesus said ‘as you do to the least of these, you have done it to me’. When you visit the sick, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty – Christ said it is as if you are doing it to Him. What a humbling vision but do not be fooled because Christ is not fooled. Doing it on your schedule, at your convenience, on your terms – is not giving. It is courtesy-charity. It is weak, it is shallow, it is transparent, it is fake and it is insulting.
As Christ was walking and the blind man came to him to be healed, do you think Jesus thought, “Oh no, not now, please…I have so much to do”? What if Mary had decided, “This really isn’t a good time”? What if Noah, after hearing the Lord’s instructions and figuring the timeline, decided he really had too much of his own stuff to do and couldn’t build this ark-thing that God wanted?
The blind man would still be blind and would have lost his faith in Jesus. Noah and his faithful family would have been lost along with thousands of animals.
Who in your life is being placed on the back burner? Who in your life is not high on your priority list? Who in your life needs you but you are inconvenienced by that need? Who do you know for whom life’s clock is almost out of ticks? Who do you know, while your train still has many miles to go on your journey, whose life-train is about to come to its final stop? Will you be there for them to bid them a fond farewell from this life? Will you hold their hand and ignore the smell of death? Will you kiss their cheek that is ever so close to their parched, dry lips and their stale breath? Will you hold their glass and straw so that they can taste the blessed coolness of the moist water on their tongue? Will you guide the spoon gently and patiently to their lips as they taste the broth that is their meal? Will you put feet to Christ? Will you be Christ’s eyes, hands and ears? Will you show the love that Christ would share were he physically in our presence today? Or do you have to check you schedule first? I’ll wait – but the dying, they can’t wait. Thanks anyway.