He sits in a wheel chair, a stocking cap on his thin white hair. His hands, once so busy and given to expansive motion, will not do his bidding. His eyes are alive and expressive and he tries so hard to communicate. I am sitting beside him in the hospital room, and trying so hard to understand.
“I think–” he starts to say, then stops, confused. He tries to form more words. “I think–”
I wait. He shakes his head despairingly and then tries again, “I would say — .” He looks at me helplessly and lapses into silence. The sequence is repeated over and over.
I smile and tell him stories about Rachel, our youngest daughter, who is my connection to this man. Stories about papers and professors and accolades and anxieties. He listens eagerly and smiles and tries to talk again. “I think –” he begins, and then with conviction, “I think that I think!”
That makes me laugh. “Oh, J–! I know you think. That mind of yours never stops. I know that you think about a LOT of things.”
He smiles again, and I make conversation. He says an occasional “yes” and “no.” And then I take his face into my hands and look into his faded eyes and I talk to him about the gifts that have been given him through no effort of his own — his good mind, and how he has used it to help his fellow man. I tell him that it truly was a gift, entrusted to him by God and that he has helped so many people with his brilliant mind. I am just warming up to saying some specific God words to this man who has spurned so many of God’s instructions, and hasn’t trusted Jesus for his salvation. He has sometimes said things that indicate that his hope is that the good he’s done will outweigh the bad. And he has done so much good. Our family, especially Rachel, have been blessed abundantly by his kindness. So I wanted to tell him about the best gift that can be his — just for the taking. I remind him that he is very loved, and that he doesn’t need words to talk to Jesus. When no one else can understand what he is trying to say, Jesus knows his heart and he can talk to Him.
And then we are interrupted by a speech therapist. It is time for him to have his lunch, and time for me to leave. His eyes look at me pleadingly, and I stoop to kiss his leathery old cheek. It is wet with tears. I taste the salt as I turn to go.
The days are long, the future is so uncertain, the conflict around him intense. I cannot bear to look back as I leave. So much of his business unfinished. So much important still undone. Though he is in his eighties, he always thought that he had more time. How little any of us know what will be tomorrow. How quickly life can change.
“Oh, Lord Jesus. May your love invade his conscious thought, his complex heart. And may the presence of Jesus be so real to him that he cannot escape it. May his restless heart find peace. Please, Lord Jesus. Have mercy on us all. In a world gone so wrong, how desperately we need the Savior that the angels announced that Holy night. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men? Lord Jesus, may it be so.”