I have worked twice this week at the Big Hospital in Amish Country. Post-internship for me and for them means more work available to cover shifts. Post-internship I have been careful to avoid obvious places where boundaries of internship parish and my life would cross for the sake of myself, the parish and the new vicar. Earlier this week, I was only working four hours- so how much contact could there be? I came in to learn that one of the ladies from the Bible study I led was in and had a lovely visit with a fellow chaplain who indulged her in a lengthy time of life review. At 93 she is experiencing limits others reach far sooner and while normally there are a couple of us on board at any given time, for those four hours it was me and the hospital, come what may.
I set about the visits requested, and along the way encountered a family in the hall of one of the intensive care areas. While I was checking on them I hear this gradually louder voice calling my name- by the third time it was a downright bellowing yell, followed by "aren't you coming in here to see ME?" So much for boundaries. I entered, fully gowned and gloved for another visit if for no other reason than the strain she was causing herself in the yelling. We chatted as though only days had passed and she introduced me to her nephew with all of the pertinent facts. And I offered prayers and a blessing for her.
Upon which she looked up with absolute clarity and declared-"I Love YOU!"
While I declared my love in return I know that it was not with the absolute sincerity that a person whose very life is in the balance generates.
Tonite I was back at the hospital and meeting a woman I have never seen in my life who shared she was fine, followed by the but... for three days they have prepped her for a heart procedure and then it is delayed. Her husband is in tears from the stress. She is trying to be strong for him, she the one with the heart problem. We talk about how God does not turn a back on us even when we shake our fist. Seeing the copy of "Our Daily Bread" on the table I encourage conversation about her devotional life. When we pray I pray for the daily bread that has nothing to do with food and everything to do with sustenance. And as we finish this 83 year old looks up with tears and tells me she loves me.
While I believe it is really an expression of love for Christ, I wonder about our lives- those of us, myself included who do not see the precarious nature of it all. How often do we deny these declarations and how often do we thus deny ourselves and each other true sentiment?
It is said that little kids and old ladies speak the greatest truth- because they have no need to be afraid. Are we afraid to be so bold? Like the way we do not say in life the things we hear at funerals and memorials?
And the ways and times we fail if nothing else to acknowledge the Christ in each other?
Wondering who I have failed to say "I LOVE YOU" to.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same.
Believing that maybe we should lower the age on true expression.