Tuesday, December 9, 2008

God sent me an Episcopal priest*

My friend Lee is dying: dying of end-stage, decompensated cirrhosis of the liver. Impending death always tears at your heart, but this one is a bit too close to mine. My late ex - Chuck - died the same way, and I suppose it could have happened to me, too.

I didn't want to go to the hospital today, but I had to go for him and his wonderful Lady M. There were a lot of things the lovely M. needed to know - most of all that she didn't have the power to stop the lure of the bottle, and that no love is strong enough to save someone driving 75 on the 55 MPH path of self-destruction.

So I called a friend for an update on Lee's condition, and took the long way to the hospital. I know that hospital, all too well. But when I walked into Lee's room to say hello, there sat a man in a clerical collar - chatting with my atheist friend. This man was a stranger to me, visiting after work as a neighbor and friend of the family. "What denomination," I asked, and it just so happens the answer was "Episcopalian." Things do just happen, at exactly the right time, every now and again.

My time with that priest was a very small bit of my visit, as a few minutes later he left for home. Before he left, he said a simple prayer for Lee's family and caregivers, and even slipped in a quick word for the patient. Lee chuckled and asked, "I don't know what to say, you slipped that in pretty fast!" I looked at the priest, and then grinned at Lee saying: "The correct response is 'Lord, hear our prayer.'" Sometimes there's nothing like an inside joke to give you a little strength.

As I sit here, I know God managed quite a two-for-one deal in that hospital today, sending a man who could be both neighbor to Lee and priest for me. Perhaps someone was praying for me? So, let us all pray today, to know the small gifts that come our way in troubled times. For life, and for the living, and for all who fight death and despair. For love remembered, and love's gifts yet to come. For inside jokes to keep us laughing along the way.

Lord, hear our prayer.

*Actually, I think this was all Scott's doing. He has this pesky habit of praying for me every time I ask. Thanks, my friend.