I’d been thinking about it since yesterday. When to go visit Ted, our dear church friend who had been moved to hospice care on Friday; the prognosis was 6 months at best. It was Saturday, nice weather for the first time in months. There was a lot on my To Do list, in particular a book launch that afternoon for a very dear friend. Part of me wanted to wait for my husband to get back into town so we could go together, though he had visited Ted often in the hospital. I could go Sunday after church but he’d have other visitors then. I decided to see how my day went, I could always go early next week.
Driving downtown I kept getting the nudge to visit Ted that evening after the book launch. I was so proud of my friend’s accomplishment, especially given all that she and her family have been through. Having her autograph her book and write a sweet, personal inscription meant a lot.
As I left the building the nudge was back. Stronger, more insistent. Go. See. Ted. Now. Darkness was descending but I’ve learned not to ignore those God-nudges. I went.
I entered the hospice building, one I’d been in before to visit others with only days or months to live. I marveled at the kindness and compassion of the staff, surrounded by impending death and the trying-to-be-strong smiles of family and friends. I was directed to Ted’s room just down the hall.
He was sleeping, the familiar oxygen tube at his nose, an unfamiliar scar on his partially shaved head from the recent brain surgery. No one else was in the room but the presence of the Holy Spirit was sweet and strong. I sat down on the chair next to his bed and patted his leg. Talked to him for a bit but the gathering tears and lump in my throat made it hard. Then I did what I was certain God wanted me to do. I told him I was there to pray with him and sing to him.
Ted loves the music at church. He never complained about anything, certainly not style of worship. Whether it was a choir, special music for Easter or Christmas, or our early-church style of congregational singing with a small music team he loved it all. Paul and I always sat with Ted so Paul could help tend the oxygen tanks, and Ted loved to joke that he wanted to sit next to me not Paul. One Sunday a few weeks ago we sang a new song, “Living Waters.” When I got back to my seat after singing Ted commented on the song. “That one is great, it really grabs you,” he whispered.
I thought about that brief exchange as I sat next to his bed, wondering if I could clear my throat to sing. The Lord had not only impressed upon me to make a visit but also that I was to sing to Ted – “Living Waters” and another one, a very precious old hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” Feeling that I was on holy ground, I began. Soft and tentative at first, more firmly as the Presence gave me strength.
“Are you thirsty? Are you empty? Come and drink these living waters,
Tired and broken, Peace unspoken, Rest beside these living waters.
Christ is calling Find refreshing, At the cross of living waters,
Lay your life down, All the old gone, Rise up in these living waters…”
I sang through tears, Blessed Assurance coming easier since I’ve been singing that one for 50 years.
When I was finished we both rested in his room, he on his death bed, I in my visitor chair, just sitting in the holiness of the moment. It wasn’t about my singing, I have no special gift. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about the faithfulness of our Savior who had given me the gift of being present with a brother in Christ. I knew Ted knew I was there, that he heard or sensed my prayer as I spoke over him before I left. When I said goodbye I couldn’t shake the feeling it would be my last time to see him.
I cried on the way home. That’s how the living express their sorrow. And also their joy at knowing a fellow Pilgrim on the journey is close to being with Jesus, and there isn’t any better place to be.
Monday morning I was in the kitchen preparing to make cookie dough. Checking my email first I saw the one from Pastor telling us that Ted had passed away early that morning. Six months had turned into three days.
The God-nudge. When you get one, act on it. I’ll always be grateful I did.