image courtesy of freepik
Most everyone is familiar with the old adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ That homey saying reminds us to not be so quick to judge someone or something with just a glance, but rather to make the effort to gather more information before drawing a conclusion. God, as He so often does, gave me another lesson on the validity of this saying yesterday.
As many of you know, I have the privilege of providing pastoral care for Oswego County Hospice. Oswego County, for those of you not versed in Central New York geography, is a large place, covering 1,312 square miles. Yet within all that territory, only a little over 122,000 people live. As you may have guessed, we are a predominantly rural place.
To their credit, Oswego County Hospice, utilizing us volunteers to the utmost, brings its amazing level of care to every inch of ground within these borders. I have never been involved with an organization that brings such excellent care to each and every patient and family in their program. And as a pastor, being able to step into the lives of people and their families as the end of this life nears is both tremendously fulfilling and humbling.
I had another hospice call yesterday but before I could endeavor to bring pastoral care, God wanted me to remind me to not judge a book by its cover. This call was to one of the very rural areas I mentioned earlier (to my credit, I only got loss once on the way there!). When i finally arrived, I was greeted at the door by one of the two sons who were providing the care necessary so that their mom could be at home for the end of her life.
He welcomed me in and as I was greeting the two dogs that met me, he brought in his other brother and my reminder lesson on not judging the book too early began. This fellow, not bothering with a shirt in spite of the 35-degree weather, shook my hand. Most of his exposed flesh was covered with what I knew to prison-work tattoos, including his shaved head. All that ink, along with the guarded look in his eyes as he sized me up, made my pre-judging abilities leap to the front.
Now that He had made me ready, God taught me the lesson I need to learn again and again. This second brother brought me in to see his mom. As he did, I noticed a wonderful transformation take place. His voice softened as he tended to his mother, helping to arrange pillows to make her as comfortable as possible. He then introduced me and quietly left the room. I sat and talked very briefly with the patient and prayed over her as she slipped back to sleep.
I excused myself and was ready to leave when the ink-covered son asked me if I had prayed with his mom. I told him yes and to my surprise, he asked if he could join me to pray again for her.
We went back into the bedroom, where this man prayed one of the most heart felt prayers I have ever been blessed to hear. He thanked God for his mom and her long life. He praised God for allowing him to come from so far away to spend these last precious days with her and his brother. He asked for mercy that she may pass peacefully, all in God’s time.
As he finished, I put my arm around him and said how moving that prayer had been. With tears in my eyes, we stood to say our goodbyes. It was then that I noticed the tears on his face too, the visible sign of his love and devotion to his mom, regardless of what his past may or may not have been.
I drove home thanking God for this man and the lesson he helped me to learn again about not judging a book by its cover.
Thanks for reading,