Dick was forty-four years old when he enrolled in our outpatient hospice service with lung cancer. He was slender with long grey hair and a full bushy beard. Dick looked like a cross between an old hippie and a mountain man. Dick was an independent contractor; and like many small contractors, he survived from job to job, had little financial reserves and no pension plan. Dick, terminally ill, financially destitute and with “nowhere to live” turned to his ex-wife, Jeannie, who being moved with compassion, took him in. Dick assured me, “We lived as brother and sister until we got remarried”, which was only three weeks before enrolling in hospice.
My hospice career was launched in nineteen-ninety-three; and Dick and Jeannie were two of my first clients. I vividly remember our first encounter. I accompanied their nurse, Dawn, on her routine visit. As Dawn and I approached the door, apprehensions raced through my mind, “Will they be open to talking with a Social Worker? What if we just don’t click? How do I explain my role without bringing up issues that they may not be ready to talk about?” Having no idea what to expect, I took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold.
As expected, I encountered the unexpected. I didn’t expect to be kneeling at their coffee table praying; and I definitely didn’t expect to be the one being prayed for! Neither did I expect to be so warmly and immediately embraced by two complete strangers. But we didn’t remain strangers for long.
The weeks passed and Dick’s condition deteriorated; he could no longer be home alone. Jeannie’s employer granted her time off, but without pay; therefore she couldn’t afford to take it. Hence, Jeannie was proverbially “between a rock and a hard place”. As we talked, the thought, instantaneously and out of the blue, flashed in my mind, “Tell them that ‘Jesus will meet them at the crossroads’ that I’m already there.” Before you start questioning my sanity, I didn’t hear voices. It was more of an illumination. My heart raced as I trembled inside; “They’ll think I’m crazy! Is God really speaking? What if it’s just my imagination? What if I tell them and things don’t work out? I was terrified of the possibility of misrepresenting God, of giving Dick and Jeannie false hope. But the exhortation was so strong that I was more fearful of being disobedient than of being mistaken. Oswald Chambers wrote that our acts of obedience are, “…the pinholes through which we see the face of God and through which the grace of God rushes through to touch the lives of others,” (Moral Foundations). So I took a deep breath, braced myself and told Dick and Jeannie, “I’ve never said anything like this to anyone before, but I really think God wants me to tell you that ‘Jesus will meet you at the crossroads’ that He’s already there.” I offered no explanations; because I had none. All I left Dick and Jeannie with that day were tears in their eyes.
When I returned to my office that Friday afternoon, I felt compelled to call a few pastors, whom I was acquainted with, to ask them if they’d be willing to take up a special offering on Sunday. On the following Monday, I collected $1,100 and delivered it to Dick and Jeannie. So Jeannie took-off work for as long as the money would last.
If it weren’t for one simple miraculous detail, it would be reasonable for you to conclude that I made the promise come true, that I made it happen. A couple weeks after Dick departed from this world, Jeannie told me, “The amount of money that you gave me was exactly what I would have made from the time I took off work until the day that Dick died. No more and no less. How could anybody have known? ”
I don’t pretend to know how or why God works and I have no desire to try to duplicate what He did for Dick and Jeanie. But I do believe that, whether or not we get what we pray for, He always meets us at the crossroads; that He’s already there.
“For He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear…’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.