Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who's An Angel?

At church the other day a man came up to our choir area after Mass and said to me, “You sing like an angel.”

That reminded me of another man who called me his angel. I first met “Bob” when his wife was in the hospital, just diagnosed with cancer, and he was terrified. In her room, he kept a running patter of positive comments and encouraging words, but later he came down to the Pastoral Services office and shared his deepest fears. I was humbled that he trusted me enough to be that open.

Bob and “Sherrry” weren’t strong religious people – I seemed to attract a lot of those kinds in my work, which was interesting. But they were deeply spiritual and very open to prayer. They just didn’t always do that in a church.

Over a period of several months, Sherry was in and out of the hospital for treatments and setbacks, but then they finally got the word that she was in remission. I was delighted. As much as I enjoyed ministering to and with them, I always hated it when patients came back.

Then one day I got a call in the office from a room upstairs. It was Bob. He had heard me say the Morning Prayer – I worked in a Lutheran Hospital where prayer was an important part of the treatment program. Bob said, “I heard that prayer and recognized the voice of our angel.”

I asked if Sherry was back in, but he said no. This time he was the patient, but it was nothing serious.

Over the next year, they would come by the Pastoral Services office when they were in for routine checkups, and when I resigned to move back to Texas, they came to my going-away party. I still have the plaque they gave me that says, “You are an Angel.” It is hanging here on my office wall and reminds me daily of the blessing they were in my life.

I do believe in angels, but I’m not so sure who was the angel here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another Perspective on Grief

I received this e-mail from my cousin after she read some of my entries about grief. I liked what she had to say, so I thought it worth sharing:

I know I have never seen the spirit lift from a body, as you described in your blog, but I am certain it happens, and that there are those who are aware of it. Dying is a road we all must travel, and like you, I feel certain that most of us are apprehensive, to say the very least. I guess my father always tried to put things into perspective for me, as he would often say, "There are worse things than death."

I remember questioning that type of philosophy....what could possibly be worse than dying, of not existing anymore? When he explained his thinking, he told me that death is a release that we need when we are too sick to ever get well again. That relief and release will be welcomed at that point. I will never forget that conversation he and I had, even though it took me a few years, to see exactly what he meant.

Then there was the quote from THANATOPSIS, A VIEW OF DEATH, by William Cullen Bryan that we had to memorize in high school that tells us, "So live, that when thy summons comes to join that innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm, where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death, thou go not like a quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave like one who wraps the draperies of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams."

One of my friends from high school is facing "sudden death" from a heart problem that has taken away her ability to oxygenate her body. She is on oxygen 24/7 now after fighting it for several years. She is an RN, and a good one, so she knows too well what is happening. Because I think the world of this woman, who is a beautiful person inside and out, I wanted to do something to offer her some support, so one day I printed a copy of THANATOPSIS from my computer and mailed it to her. I also told her about some good books that covered death and near-death experiences of some ordinary people. She appreciated my trying to alleviate some of
her anxieties.

Donna Woodburn