She lay there, frail – anemic-looking, actually - her fingers twisted around an old tissue – one she used every now and then to wipe her nose. Her skin was sallow, her face sunken - the soft fleshy areas eclipsed by the bony structures. Her eyes, a pale blue, seemed vacant - yet they cried out. They appeared to say: “I see you… I know you are there. Do you know I am here?”
Despite this ”knowing,” we remained in silence.
She could speak, but chose to remain voiceless.
I wondered, as I sat there beside her, what her back-story was. The nurses and doctors came in, left, came back in. They attended to the machines, the drips, the tubes, but never to her… almost as though it was forbidden to engage with her… to care for “her” and not just her “condition” and medical needs.
I knew her name: Mariel. The hospital chaplain had given it to me when I was asked to pray for her.
(Mariel, where are you? How can I pray for you? What do I pray for you?)
“Lord, help me.” (Let her know that you care… that for some odd reason, you have sent me, a complete stranger, to sit with her in these last tenuous hours she is to occupy the canvas we call earth.)
She glanced slightly in my direction.
“The Lord is near.”
Her look was quizzical, mixed with hunger.
“Do you know Jesus?”
Her chest rose and a slight sigh passed through her lips.
“Lord, does she know you? What does she need in this exact moment of time?”
“Me… she needs Me.”
“Mariel, Jesus loves you – will you receive His great gift of love for you? Ask Him to forgive you… restore you… redeem you… reconcile you?”
It seemed like too many words… too many thoughts for one as ill as she, to comprehend.
This enervated woman, in her late eighties, who had not spoken for 3 months now looked at me with piercing eyes, and said. “yes… yes.”
We prayed a short prayer confirming her assent to God’s great provision. She sighed again – deeply this time - releasing what seemed a lifetime of sorrow and grief. With her eyes now closed she gave the tiniest squeeze to my hand, and then… Mariel slipped into eternity.
A weak woman who had occupied a hospital bed a split nano-second ago, was transported sound and unbroken into the arms of Love, Himself: the One who is indescribable, incomprehensible, and irresistible. The One whose love is limitless, whose goodness is endless, whose mercy is measureless, whose grace is unending.
The monitor went flat. The medical people swarmed the room. No resuscitation. They asked me to leave.
I pulled out my cell phone and called the chaplain. I inquired if he knew any family to call. He didn’t; and said that none of the hospital staff knew of family, either. Grief engulfed me. I slipped to the hard, cold floor of the hospital corridor and wept.
A few days later, after some diligent research, I discovered Mariel’s son. At first, despite the fact that he now knew that his mother was dead… no longer here... he firmly declined to speak with me.
I waited… did not hang up.
“You just don’t know… (his voice crackling, agitated), what we went through.”
“You’re right; I don’t,” I replied.
Silence. Several interminably long seconds passed.
I could hear noise in the background. He was “shushing” someone, asking that they leave the room he was in.
A few moments passed, after which I guess he took note of my sincerity, relented, and spoke again. His voice unsteady, he began to unfurl an erratic and tragic story of family distress and despair.
Mariel had made some egregious decisions over her lifetime. The impact of them created a sorrowful outcome for many - for a daughter (dead from neglect while still an infant), another daughter who committed suicide when a teenager, and a son (the one with whom I now spoke) - a man whose inner turmoil had filled the notebooks of many psychiatrists and whose lament had never been shared with a non-professional.
And here I came - unexpected, interrupting, pressing in to a volatile situation. (Little did I know… but God did.)
The conversation went for three hours. Few words. Many tears. Much prayer.
Sam met this same Jesus Mariel came to know before the vapor of her life was no more.
He has called me a few times since our initial conversation. There are things he will need to work through, but his journey is toward peace, toward redemption.
Mariel now lives where there is no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. What a privilege to squeeze her hand before she left.
© Silent Mornings