I’m sitting with my son Douglas in his hospital room in Sioux City, IA. It’s evening and we are being quiet together. I try to sit by his bed and just hold his hand. Since his accident six days ago, life has been surreal. Right now other family members are resting, and I have this time with Doug.
I have been answering the question, “How is Doug doing?” by saying that he is holding his own, very well. The “very well” part is because I think Doug does everything very well. With a traumatic brain injury, the question is hard to answer. There is more going on in this room every hour than I can keep track of.
We have many reasons to be very hopeful for Doug. I believe that God is going to use Doug in wonderful ways, as I have always believed. I am praying for a full recovery and his family is going to give him every opportunity to make that happen.
Thank you to those who have prayed for Douglas. I would love to have you continue to pray for him as we move through this weekend. He is my wonderful son!
This week I have learned some things about how we as small church pastors care for hospitalized people and the loved ones around them. We have been ministered to by a number of pastors and chaplains since we arrived here with Doug. Here are some things that I think are important
Do you care? I can easily tell who cares about a patient and/or family member and who does not. There is not a bullet list of clues, but it is communicated through eye contact, tone of voice, touch, posture, and attention. I will always want to take a moment, before entering a patient’s room, to pray, gather my thoughts, and think about how I can care for, comfort, and encourage the person I am visiting.
Are you dialed in to the patient, and do you treat him/her with love and respect? My son is unconscious. I love the people who come into the room, call him by name, and tell him what they are doing to help. I like when pastors/chaplains know Doug’s name, speak to him, and pray for him. There is a shepherding care that takes place when people speak to God for him, and to him for God. Doug is not just a patient, he is a person, and more importantly, he is my son.
Are you rushed in your visit? This is not a science, but an art. People know when you are in a hurry and trying to get out of their room. Wouldn’t it be great if they thought you had absolutely nothing else to do but love on them? Listen, make eye contact, be slow to speak, talk directly to people, and truly love them with the love of Jesus from within.
Know that sick, injured, or fearful people need encouragement, and that every word of hope, affirmation, and support will go a long way. When we are in the pit of despair, we will seize upon every possible morsel of optimism we can find. Provide many morsels of hope and encouragement.
Finally, know you are making a spiritual difference not only in their life, but in the lives of those in the room. Today Rev. Sharon came in, and she spoke with me and my son Joel. She asked us about Doug. Then, she turned her back on us and talked to, and prayed with, Douglas. She spoke to him, even though unconscious, as though he were looking right at her. Then, she lovingly prayed for him. When she was done I asked her to come into his room every day she was there to pray for him. I was in tears. It was truly a moment of spiritual ministry.
In this rotten, horrific week I am having, I am still looking for the things I can thank God for, and for which I can be grateful for in my heart. The care and concern of a church family, meals prepared in love, friends who come bearing our burdens and giving us hope, and a phenomenally loving family – for these I am humbled and grateful.
As you visit people in the hospital, take the time to prepare yourself. It is not “just another visit”. Hospital visitation should never be routine. It is the work of Jesus to those crushed in spirit; it is the work of the Spirit through you to provide hope; and it is the work of the small church Shepherd to care for the sheep.
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