Friday, May 20, 2011

A Meaningful Week

   It seems Spring has finally arrived ... for awhile, at least.  As I'm tapping away on my computer to you, I'm on the patio of a Peet's coffee place, enjoying a warm breeze and a moment to reflect on a week of diverse experiences.  Tuesday was full of Community Connections (which you can read about here).  On Wednesday I went to visit a dear older woman, Elaine, who had fallen and been badly injured.  I heard that she had some broken bones and was pretty bruised.  It turned out to be much worse.  X-rays revealed fractures in both shoulders, a wrist, and her ankle.  They didn't even mention her nose, because all of the other injuries were so serious.  The amazing woman who tended our roses at church until she moved into a senior facility; who cared for all her brothers and sisters when they were sick; and who faithfully folded our church bulletins for more than 12 years - this dynamo of strength and attitude now lay physically quite broken in an air-fillied hospital bed.  Though she never had any biological kids of her own, loving nephews and a niece stood watch at her bedside.  Swollen and bruised, Elaine's unconscious body rested under white sheets and a light blanket.  
   I don't like this part of being a pastor.  Don't misunderstand - I actually enjoy hospital visits very much.  People are more real and open to talk than at almost any other time, and so meaningful conversations are easy and plentiful.  What sucks is witnessing the merciless advance of time as it consumes the joy and vigor of people you love.  Sometimes in a church like ours, there are too many of these visits too close together.  Yet it's also a rich and good time as it was this day.  I listened to Elaine's family tell, with great love, story after story about her.  They were careful not to let go of her just yet, using the present tense each time her name was mentioned.  "Remember that time she scolded you for cutting back that wisteria?  Aunt Elaine is so funny." 
   Soon the surgeon arrived.  He brought news of possible surgeries and spoke of possible recovery.  The mood brightened, but tough decisions remained.  We prayed for wisdom and for Jesus to give insight about what's truly best for Elaine.  Later that night I was informed that surgery would take place the next morning.  
  On my way out of the hospital, I decided to take the long way near the exit where new families take their fresh bundles to waiting cars.  Sure enough, as if God knew I needed some hopeful sign of life, there was a dad guiding his wife in a wheelchair as she cradled a tightly wrapped new baby in a blue blanket.  I walked slowly.  As he went through the automatic doors, dad ran to the car and opened the door, exposing a tightly secured car seat.  Mom didn't look up from her bundle.  Dad ran back to her, and began to usher them out into the light exclaiming, "Welcome to the outside world!"  
Welcome indeed, little man.  
   I saw Elaine just before surgery the next morning.  Surprisingly, she opened her eyes when I said her name.  A big, welcoming smile spread across her face.  “Hi Elaine.  It’s me, pastor Curt.”  
“I know who you are.  How are you?”
“I’m fine Elaine.  How are you doing?”  
We talked for a good long time.  A good dose of that old spark is still present.  We talked about all sorts of things that aren’t really mine to share here.  But it was a beautiful time.
I like this part of being a pastor.

   Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m taking my own mom to a San Francisco Giants game for her 87th birthday.  She told me that her favorite, Tim Lincecum, will be the starting pitcher, and that she wants to get there early to get a free Giants hat they give to the first 20,000 fans.  How great is my mom?  My oldest daughter, Amanda, will be there too, along with my brother Chris and his girlfriend, and my brother-in-law Mario.  
It will be a terrific day.  
Thanks be to God for this gift of life. 
- Curtis