Friday, January 22, 2010

Without a Word

When I think about Helen, I think of time standing too still. Who am I to say? I am not God. God is the author of time. Helen was a patient at the hospital for five years enduring Lou Gehrig’s’s disease also called ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Scierosis). A rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling the voluntary muscles. Eventually individuals with ALS lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals finally lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support. The disease does not effect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch. No cure has yet been found for ALS.

I remember Helen being the first patient I would visit as a spiritual care volunteer. Have you ever met a person who impacted your life without saying a word? I have and that person was Helen. I know this wonderful woman of God impacted many other people too. Many volunteers, nurses, doctors, cleaning staff and anyone who went into her room. Helen was once a very active person, very athletic in her younger years. The hospital chaplain told me she had known Helen for many years and described her to me.

The beautiful part of Helen’s story is that her husband who was once also her jogging buddy. He visited her every day for five years. Each afternoon after his morning jog he would go to the hospital and sit by her bedside. He would read her bible verses because that is what she loved to hear. They would pray together and he would talk to her. Over the five year period of time he watched his beautiful wife gradually deteriorate before his very eyes. First her muscles weakened until she could no longer walk. Then she no longer could move her arms. Gradually, she became bed ridden and could barely move her toes. As time would go on she eventually could not talk or move anything except her eyes. That is how Helen could communicate when I met her. One blink for yes and two blinks for no. By this time in her life she was fed through a tube connected to her stomach and had intravenous because she could barley swallow.

The thing about Helen was that she was always positive. Many of the people who walked with her through those five years, witnessed her live out her strong faith in Christ. Though her body was slowly dying, her spirit was very much alive. When I met Helen the first day, I felt intimidated by her and even a little scared. I didn’t know what to say or how to react. When the Chaplain asked me to pray for Helen, I found myself a little dumb founded and tongue tied. The Chaplain introduced me to Helen. I wondered to myself, what on earth was I doing there? The Chaplain asked Helen if she would like me to pray for her and she said yes, with a blink of her eyes. I didn’t know what to pray for her. “God please heal her?” I simply prayed that Helen would feel God’s presence with her and yes that God’s healing hand would be upon her and that he would comfort her.” I was taken by surprise, finding myself feeling very uncomfortable. Hey, I told God I wanted to help people and I volunteered, so I got exactly what I asked for and much more. Through meeting Helen I was once again reminded how fragile life can be. My life was looking pretty good in comparison. I had to check myself. When you witness someone like Helen being such a good example of Christian perseverance, it makes one think about their own faith. How would I react if that were I? Then we thank God for what we have, hoping we would not suffer such a fate as ALS.
Helen was on a breathing machine to keep her alive. She could hear everything that went on around her. Within the next month she couldn’t even blink her eyes anymore. She had literally become a prisoner within herself. All bodily functions finally shut down. Helen was pronounced dead when her family decided to have the doctors take her off the life support. Helen’s body physically stopped operating. The disease that eventually took her life did not take her Spirit or her soul. Her Spirit belongs to Christ her Savior and in her faith she knew that her life here was to be a testimony of faith and love for others to witness. Helen knew that her earthly body was temporal. I believe Helen didn’t die. Only her body died. Now she is no-longer a prisoner in that body because she has been set free to live for eternity with God. We thank God for Helen’s life. Though I didn’t know her well, she was a stranger to me in reality. None the less, she was a woman of great courage and faith who touched my life with the blink of an eye. See you in Heaven Helen.

Finding Time for Life

If we stop for a moment and think about all the changes which have occurred in the last century, we would marvel. We have seen transportation go from horse and buggy to fast moving cars, rocket ships to the moon, jets that reach excessive speed and cruise ships that make the Titanic look like a minnow. Two world wars of which most of the veterans have passed away, including my Father and Uncle and their fathers and uncles before them. Time has taken their lives. Some live in the history books others in our memories. I have witnessed a generation almost completely disappear. When I look back to what seems like yesterday, I was a young girl. I now realize that time does not stand still. When you are a young child you can’t wait to be older. When you are older and on the other side of the hill you wish you were younger. Over 2000 years have passed since Christ’s death. When I think how fast the centuries go by I guess 2000 years really is not that long of a time period.
I believe it is a common feeling to feel like we are on a train out of control, rushing to work, rushing home, running to that next appointment. We kiss our loved ones as we fly by them at the door. Sometimes we don’t have time for that. We say we will call tomorrow, but tomorrow quickly turns into next year. We wonder how we lose touch with friends or how we grow apart. The most important thing that often seems to get squeezed out of my busy life is God. I believe many people can relate. Unlike the woman of noble character mentioned in the book of Proverbs, who seems to have time to do many things in balance, I have not arrived at that perfection yet. I don’t know if she had time to pray to God? Perhaps her communication with God is all throughout the day while doing the many things mentioned. The key in the epilogue of the Wife of Noble Character is in verse 31:30-31 which says: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate”.
Have you ever experienced the overload? Finally you have a quiet moment to yourself when you finally fall into bed, then you begin to pray, only to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. I know that has happened to me. God becomes the last thing on the priority list rather than the first. Then we wonder why our days are so full and why we get irritable and short on patience etc. Starting your day without God, can be like an addict trying to get through the day without coffee, cigarettes or drugs. I need God no doubt about it.
Who wants to get up extra early to spend time talking to God? Is an extra hour of sleep more important than God? Some people think so. When you think about it; I know I have thought about it because I am getting older. I started comparing how many years I’ve lived and possibly how many years I have left to live. Then I think about how much time of a person’s life is really just slept away. When I think about it in this perspective, I think maybe I don’t really need that much sleep. My high school science teacher Mr. Deer told our class that he only slept a few hours a night. He was up before the birds. He said he had many things to do and didn’t want to sleep his life away. Keeping this perspective, I try to get up early. In doing so I notice how beautiful the sunrise looks with the fog lying over the fields. I take the dog for a walk and look wide eyed at everything around me and I praise God. I talk to him as I walk, and think wow, if I had of stayed in bed, I would have missed seeing all this beauty. The more I talk to God, the better I feel. My day begins with a fresh vibrant outlook on life. The book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 reminds us that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.