Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Vigil

This journey of ours started a long week ago. For those of you who are joining for the first time, our current adventure began last Friday. 

When my phone rang, I almost didn't answer it. I was busy and hated to stop for a telemarketer. 

It wasn't a sales call. 

My elderly neighbor Sam had called to say his wife had "slid down in the floor" and he couldn't get her up. I'm glad I answered, but it was a call that changed our lives forever. 

Sam and his wife Jamie have lived in a cottage at the entrance to my farm since 1960, when Sam came to work on the farm I now own. In the early years, he and I spent most of my days off together. He taught me to set a trot line, sharpen a knife, skin a rabbit. We have had a glorious time together. 

After I married and had my son, Ryan joined us in our rural adventure. Sam taught Ryan to make repairs, use a hammer, calm a frightened animal, tighten a cinch, and catch a fish with nothing more than a hook and a piece of bread. 

Jamie did factory work, took care of Sam, and made the best biscuits in the world. Her door was always open and, if you stopped by at mealtime, she fed you, whether you intended to be fed or not. 

She loved Sam and she loved my son. 

On that day that seems so long ago, I found Jamie sitting on the floor, leaned up against the bedroom door. Sam and I lifted her up and into a chair, but it was clear she was in big trouble. I called 911. 

From the ambulance crew to Minnie, the sweet lady who cleans the room, people have been nice to us. They have bathed us in kindness and cushioned this awful journey in gentleness and a sweetness that is both unexpected and difficult to comprehend. 

This morning, I went to the cafeteria to grab a quick breakfast and hurry back to the room. At the checkout, I reached into my wallet for my money, and heard a young woman behind me say, "I've got both of these." I handed my $10 to the cashier and she smiled. "She already got yours." The "both" the young woman had claimed was her breakfast and mine. 

I wept. 

Tears trickled down my face as I stammered words of thanks to a woman I did not know and will never forget. Whoever you are, thank you. 

I learned something momentous in that moment. 

Last night, one of the nurses talked with me. "We've watched how you've loved your neighbors. I've never seen a doctor love someone like this, treat someone like you've treated Miss Jamie and Mr. Sam. It's rare these days for anyone to do this. I want you to know it's changed me. If you need anything, all you have to do is tell us. I promise you, I'm going to pay it forward. I want to do what I've seen you do." 

I smiled and thanked her, but I didn't understand. Until this morning. The lady at breakfast opened my eyes. 

In our society, we've become so consumed with ourselves and our busyness that we've stopped caring for those around us. I've substituted texts for visits and phone calls for presence far too often. 

This week has been hard, but it's been worth it. I hope I do better next time. I've failed so many of my friends over the years that I've spent this week repenting it. I hope I do better in the future. 

Loving our neighbor is spoken of far more than done. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is rare, and loving our neighbor when it costs us dearly is even more rare. I haven't done anything special at all. I've tried to act like Jesus in a difficult situation and done a poor job of it. I could have loved more. I should have loved more. 

I can do better at loving. We all can do better at loving each other, and we must. 

As Sam and I have sat beside the bed of his dying wife, he's talked about their marriage of sixty years. His life is changing and the future is frightening. "What am I going to do?" he asked me. "They same thing we've always done," I told him. "You'll take care of me and I'll take care of you. After all these years, why stop now?" 

Hours later, Sam smiled. "You know, today I feel like I'm gonna make it through." 

Jamie's condition continues to decline. She is not expected to make it. No. That's not right. She is expected to make it, but she won't be staying here. She is preparing for her journey from this world to the next. Her time here is almost over, but her new life is only beginning. 

For now, we wait, standing vigil at the bedside of a woman Sam has loved more than he loves himself. It looks like Jesus at this bedside. When I see love like Sam's, who else could it be?

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Matt. 22:39

Here's the link to yesterday's post on this topic:

#loveyourneighbor #payitforward #vigil #disciple