I try to visit her once a week. Sometimes I have to hunt for her. If she’s not in her room, I try the dining area or maybe the chapel if there’s an event. On one particularly nice day I found her outside, sitting in her wheelchair, a young speech therapist at her side. That visit was especially nice. Not only did we get to sit in the fresh air, I enjoyed having an eavesdropper to my sharing of spiritual things. We would talk about Jesus and she would light up, at least as much as her failing body and dimming eye would allow her.
I had been her pastor for many years. She was able to attend church services less and less frequently. When she was able to come, it was an ordeal for her. The building had a handicap ramp, but getting inside and situated was no easy feat.
She would love it when she was able to make it. It made things normal. It spoke of a continuity to life that was now in its twilight.
She would recount those times at church in my visits, resigned to the fact that those days were over and could never be regained. She would talk about her home but her home now was no longer the cramped little house filled with memories of a husband and children growing up. Her home now was a place where she could be well cared for, where the danger of falling was less and, if she did, help was always there.
I would tell her about the heavenly home with Jesus. She would be with Him because He had prepared a place for her. Where He was she would be. No more suffering or pain. No more decline and loss. To be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. She loved those words. A smile would crease her lined face and she’d ask me to talk about it some more.
On one visit, I found her in her room, one she shared with three other women. But they had managed to partition off the room through curtains and chairs to give each her own space. No real privacy but that turf was hers. A room in a home. Her room.
As was often the case of late, I found her asleep in her wheelchair. I had to nudge her awake with my voice and introduce myself. Not because she was losing her mental faculties but her vision was failing, part of a steady decline in recent years. “Oh, pastor,” she would say. “It’s so good to see you.” Seeing is more than sight.
Later in our visit, I asked her if she could wish for one thing, what would it be? I listened. Her wish at the moment was for reduction in pain. Something simple. Nothing grandiose. Nothing deeply spiritual. Just real. And timely.
I opened God’s Word. She loved for me to read the Bible to her. I gave a bit of tease when I said the psalmist asked for one thing and asked her what she thought it was. I explained he was facing adversity. But there was one thing he asked for. I read the passage.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple. Ps. 27:1-4
The one thing the psalmist asked was that he might dwell with the God he loved and behold His beauty. It became his ambition. His quest in the midst of adversaries and adversity. A quest that can be pursued in a wheelchair.
She liked the idea of that prayer. It said something about her home, here and into eternity. Somehow I think God answered her prayer for the lessening of her pain by lifting her eyes to Him and to His promises for her in Jesus. The cares of this world seemed to grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.
Seeing is more than sight. Even more, faith is the assurance of things not seen, at least with physical eyes. But those things are real. Forever real.