The last few days have been a bit of a blur. Late last week, Dad had begun to experience swelling in his right leg, which was confirmed Monday morning to be a combination of pulmonary edema and blood clots. By Tuesday morning, after several falls during the night, Dad was moved to the Asbury Care Center at Aldersgate. He’s resting comfortably, and after a rough day on Tuesday – yesterday and today have been a little better. But, the painful reality is that these are all clear signs that his earthly body is starting to give out. This morning he was admitted into Hospice care.
But that’s the sad part. There is joy in all of this. The continuous (literally) stream of visitors coming by to spend time with Mom and Dad has been amazing. I never doubted when my parents told me some years ago that they were moving to Aldersgate that it was the right decision. But never would have imagined how powerful of a support structure they would be surrounded with. Mom and Dad knew that all along, and now I know it too.
Dad had a book published in 1998. Notice I didn’t say he wrote a book in 1998. “Wind Chimes” is a compilation of short vignettes he wrote throughout his ministry as church bulletin covers or short articles in the North Carolina Christian Advocate. One of these was titled “Hotels or Hospice”. I read it earlier this week and it spoke to me (again) about our role and place in community. Whether that community is your church, your family, your retirement community – whatever – I think this message is very powerful in the context of our family’s current situation. But also very relevant to current events in the world around us. I’ve retyped it below and hope you find the same comfort and inspiration that it gave me.
Thank you again for your continued prayers and support!
HOTEL OR HOSPICE by Tom Sigmon
If you listen to some people you would think that all the active and faithful churchpersons brush their teeth with Crest, wear white hats, chew sugar-free gum and never swear (even if ever so slightly). Furthermore they all appear to have had grandmothers who taught Sunday School and grandfathers who were the very rock upon which the Church was founded, and always sat around in velvet lined chairs reading the Scriptures (in King James Version, of course). The same folk, with some degree of innocence, paint glowing pictures of the Church as a sweet and innocent society of like-minded people who never get angry (especially at each other). The imagery consistently thrust forward is that of a nice, plush “hotel for saints” (with saints always erroneously defined as “God’s good guys”). After you’ve heard, and lived with, a good bit of this, it is tremendously refreshing to hear proclaimed the Biblically based truth that we are called to greater values than these. We are, in fact, called to be a caring community as Church, bound together far more by love and concern for one another than to be drawn into proximity by like-mindedness and agreeable camaraderie. There’s more to friendship than casual surface relationships and there’s more to Christian brotherhood than the ability to get along when all is going well.
During the middle ages, a term was used which applies very dramatically to our present day need to change and renew our image of Church. A proper application could shake the foundation of any entrenched mutual admiration society. The term is “hospice” and it referred to the resting place provided by the Church for pilgrims who were in search of truth. It’s application is breaking out again in our country, in medical circles. It’s coming more and more to mean a place where terminally ill people can rest in the final stages of their lives, where the sting of death is lessened and the joy of life enhanced.
Isn’t that what the Church is really about? Don’t we face, on a daily basis, a large section of a society which is terminally ill and in need of hospice?
It’s great to have “camaraderie” and “good spirit” and “friendliness,” but it’s more vital to provide the care and concern which helps people know how good God is because we embody His love. There’s a need for “hospice” in most of our church houses.