Here's my "verbatim" of a phone conversation with the 65 year old husband of a 63 year old woman, dying of metastatic breast cancer. They are chicken farmers and live in a small trailer in one of the poorest towns in the county. He had initially agreed to a visit at 2 PM the next day, then called again, 15 minutes later to cancel that appointment. That conversation - on my cell phone, pulled over to the side of a long, lonely country road near a wind blown, barren, snow covered corn field - went something like this:
He: So, I forgot to ask you something, because, you know, I'm thinking we shouldn't have you come.
Me: Oh, I see. Well, okay, then. Ask your question and we'll see if I have an answer for you.
He: So, my question is this: Can you prophesy a miracle?
Me: Um, I'm sorry. I'm not sure I understand your question.
He: (Unmistakably frustrated deep sigh) Can. You. Prophesy. A. Miracle?
He: Well, it's a pretty straightforward question, ma'am. You know. It don't get much easier that this. Yes or no? Can.You.Prophesy.A.Miracle?
Me: I'm truly sorry if I'm causing you to be any more frustrated than you already are. If you're asking if I can tell that a miracle is about to happen, I would have to say that I see miracles happening all the time.
I'm sitting here in my car on the side of the road, watching the wind blow snow across a cold, hard, barren corn field and it doesn't look like any life was ever here or will ever be here. But, I know, come spring - in just a few short weeks - this place is going to be green and full of life.
That's a miracle I can prophesy.
But, I have a sneaking suspicion that's not what you're asking me, is it?
He: (Sniffling. Clears throat.) No, ma'am. No it is not. I'm asking for a miracle here. If I'm gong to get through this, I need to know that a miracle can happen. We need a miracle here. Right here. Right now. And, if you are comin' to fix us to get ready for heaven, well, we don't need none of that talk right now. You Hospice people don't have no faith. All you can talk about is pain management and dying and death and DNR and no 911. I can excuse the nurses, you know. They are tryin to help. And the social workers, God love 'em, they mean well. And, I know you're all good people and tryin' to help and all, but . . . . . .
(Raises voice in anger): But, I don't want no pastor, no woman of God, comin' in here and talkin' that talk to me and my wife. We need people of God in here. Ain't you got no Christian nurses and social workers? You got 'compassion' but you got 'Jesus'? Look, we done stuff in our lives that wasn't good. Wasn't always right. Everybody does. That don't mean we deserve to die. That don't mean we don't deserve a miracle. (Begins to cry)
Me: Yes, I sure. These are difficult days. The early days of Hospice often are.
He: And, nights. Nights is worse. So dark. So long.
Me: I'm sure.
Me: Then, if that's what you need, that's what you should have.
He: I mean, I know you mean well, and you sound nice and all, but well, this is what we need. My baby and me. We got enough with the nurse and social worker talkin' all DNR and such. We need some men of God who know how to prophecy a miracle.
Me: Sounds to me like you are trying to take care of yourself and you are doing your absolute best and all that you know how to do to take care of your wife. Here's what I know for sure: God will bless that abundantly.
He: (Breaks down sobbing) Oh gawd, O gawd, O gawd. . . . . . . .
Me: (Silent for awhile. Praying up a storm.) Sir, would you like me to pray on the phone with you? I could say the Lord's Prayer, if you like.
He: (Crying). Please do, pastor. I need to hear that prayer.
Me: I'll say it and you can jump in any time you feel like it. Or, not. Whatever feels right for you. Okay, so . . . . Our father, who art in heaven . . . . .
He: . . . . THY will be done . . . . EARTH .. .. Forgive . . . Sinners . . . Temptation . . . AMEN.
Me: (Silent for awhile) You have my cell phone number. Call me if I can be of some help . . .
He: Thank you, pastor.
Me: God bless you.
He: Yup. God bless you. And, pray for a miracle, okay?
Me: Just know that God is always with you. Always. Even when we don't think God is there. Even so, God is always with us. That's the greatest miracle of all. It's the empty tomb, you know?
He: The empty tomb?
Me: Yes, you know. The Roman soldiers thought the tomb was empty but the women - Mary and Mary Magdalene and a few others - knew that it was filled with God and the Spirit of the Resurrected Jesus.
He: Huh! That's right. Huh! The empty tomb!?! What does that mean, pastor?
Me: Well, one of the things it means to me is that miracles are not always what we see with our eyes but what we know in our hearts.
He: Huh! Okay. Alright. Thank you, pastor.
Me: You have my cell phone number. Call if you need anything. Even just to talk. Okay?
He: Okay. Yes. Thank you.
Me: God bless you, sir. You and your wife are in my prayers.
He: Thank you. God bless you. God bless you. God bless you. . . . ..
NB: And, on my "Activity Sheet" I will simply report: "TC (Telephone call) to PCG (Primary Care Giver). Visit declined at this time. Assurances given. Prayers said."