Last Wednesday we attended a funeral. The couple had been married 65 years. The wife helped train me when I was assigned to their church in another town as part of my diaconal preparation. This was the first service I went to after several weeks recovering from cancer surgery on my colon. The church was full when we got there. Not until the service was under way did we finally locate an empty spot where I could wobble in on my walker.
When the service was over, Melanie and I stayed in the pew until the crowd cleared. Some stopped to greet me and let me know they were praying. Then their deacon came over. Was I ready to do some ministry visits, she asked?
She told us the head of the church altar guild had suffered a stroke a month earlier and was now at the Lakeland hospital.
“As I sat up there during the service, I saw you and realized this is what you’ve been dealing with. It would probably encourage her if you could visit her.”
Melanie and I decided we would try to do so after church Sunday. That was another first after my surgery. I had been too weak since the surgery to make it to church. I had thought perhaps, once I was recovered, visiting and praying with the sick might be a big part of our new life. I just hadn’t expected the doors to open this soon.
When we got to church one of my prayer partners from the Order of St. Luke was on the sidewalk. He walked in with me and I asked him to do an errand for me, to put more anointing oil in my oil-stock ring. I had felt several nudges to do this in the weeks before the stroke hit me and I had neglected to do it. It had been over as year. My friend took my ring and soon brought it back. We made plans to meet again during the week and he left.
The wife of another friend sat in the pew in front of me. I had written about her husband’s health battle in my last blog before my own stroke. Now she, too, was facing some serious health problems.
I pulled out my freshly refilled oil stock ring and anointed and prayed for her. There were tears from us both. Melanie whispered to her that was one reason she gave up wearing mascara. As the service started I was wondering if I’d already seen the reason God had me in church that morning.
After the service Melanie and I went to the hospital. The altar guild lady was on the newly opened stroke rehab floor. As the elevator doors opened we saw a familiar face. One of the therapists who taught me how to walk again last year at the Winter Haven hospital was walking down the hall. She had joined the new therapy staff in Lakeland. We got caught up and she told us another therapist who knew us was also working that day. And she directed us to the altar guild lady’s room.
There was a lot of chatter we could hear as we approached the room. Turns out the staff had just finished washing her hair. Her daughter was there, combing and brushing it. We introduced ourselves. We did all the talking since the stroke has removed her voice although they expect this to return eventually. I anointed her and prayed for her. We left quickly since I knew she was probably tired.
I was losing steam myself but we had one more friend to visit. He had spent more time, worse time, at the hospital this year than I. Last week there was more major surgery but this time there had been good news. This friend had visited me at home between his hospital interludes and I was glad to pray with him and thank the Lord for his good news.
Melanie really likes the cafeteria at our hospital so I snoozed in my borrowed wheel chair while she got herself lunch. Then it was home and to bed for our Sunday nap. Church was letting out the last service as we drove by. It was the Lord’s Day.