This is the last of a three part series about Marvin. Allow me to update the latecomers. Marvin was seventy-two when he enrolled in hospice with terminal prostate cancer. He was a successful real estate broker, spiritual lay leader and active hospice volunteer for several years. But Marvin eventually ended up on the receiving end of hospice.
In part one; we caught a glimpse of Marvin’s character as portrayed by his wife, Jan: “He never talked about anybody. He never said anything bad about anybody, not even to me. You couldn’t get him to…He always saw the good in people…” In part two, we benefited from the collective wisdom of Marvin, Jan, and their two close friends, Doug and Betty. When asked what the key to a successful marriage was Jan summed it up,” When you expect your mate to make you happy you’re in big trouble. Another person can’t make you happy.” When we attempt to escape responsibility by blaming others for our actions, or inaction, we escape freedom. We become self-incarcerated prisoners, voluntary victims.
Now for part three. Marvin’s body weakened as his cancer advanced. He went on short excursions outside the house but reported, “It takes me two or three days to recuperate.” Marvin’s wife, Jan, expounded, “He can’t do anything on his own anymore. He has to be lifted into bed. I can’t lift him but his sister lifts him like a toy.”
I was accustomed to our living room chats; but on this particular day I was grieved for Marvin, and for me; for Marvin’s illness had confined him to his bedroom. So I asked Marvin, “What’s it like for you now that you are confined to your bed? Marvin replied, “I’m trying to adjust. It’s scary sometimes and it gets lonely. It’s better to have someone with you, to read and pray when you are in that frame of mind. But sometimes you don’t feel like reading or praying. But Jesus is always with me. He’s my friend. He’ll never leave me. All my life I felt like I was holding on to God, but now it’s God who is having to do the holding.”
Marvin’s sentiments remind me of the lyrics of the song, “Just be Held”, by Casting Crowns: “Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong. But life hits you out of nowhere and barley leaves you hanging on. And when you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control; there’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go. So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away; you’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held. Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place; I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held… “
As a hospice Social Worker I’ve stood by “death beds” and heard children suggest, “I think dad just gave up.” But there’s a fine line between resignation and acceptance, giving up and just wearing out. We never encourage hospice patients to resign or give up. We encourage patients to live every day on purpose. But according to wise King Solomon, “For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9).” There’s a time to try harder, but there’s also a time to, “Let go and let God”.
I’m reminded of another “once upon a time” story. Once upon a time there was a fellow hiking on a high ridge and he stumbled and fell over the cliff. On the way down he grabbed hold of a root growing through a crevice between the rocks. There was no way to climb up; and to let go would be certain death. As he was hanging on for dear life he yelled, “Help! Is there anybody up there?” Then he heard a loud voice say, “This is God, just let go and I’ll catch you!” He thought for a minute and then yelled, “Is there anybody else up there?”
Are there things happening in your life right now that have hit you out of nowhere? Are you trying to hold it all together but barely hanging on? I think my friend and fellow pilgrim would tell you, “There’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go… you’re not alone…He’s on the throne…stop holding on and just be held.”
“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525