Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Visit to Home

His cowboy hats and baseball caps still hang on a rack when you walk in the door.  A bedroom downstairs is filled with trophies of all shapes and sizes - signs of his success as a livestock judge - a legend in his own right.  His Wrangler jeans are in the washer right now.  His shirts are hanging to dry.  But he is not here, and I was not completely prepared to see him last night for the first time since last Christmas.

Craig and I are in Colorado visiting my mother.  While getting to Lamar, Colorado is no easy feat, this place is a place of rest and renewal for me.  It is a place where we stay in our pajamas until noon, go to happy hour at the Sonic drive in every afternoon, eat a lot of great food, and laugh.  The entire house fills with laughter often.  I love coming to this place.  I love visiting my mother and stepfather, Red.  But things are definitely not the same this year.

Red is sick.  Red is very, very sick.  

The pictures all over the house show a healthy man who weighs around 200 pounds.  The man I saw in the nursing home last night was skin and bones when I hugged him - I have never felt his bones before.  He weighs under 130 pounds.  He breathes heavy and deliberately.  He is, for the first time, showing his age - the 15 years he has on my mother  And I am showing a lot of emotion.

As a pastor, I go to the nursing home often to see different people.  There are some places that are hard to visit, I'll be the first to admit.  But I go.  I go.  I visit.  I pray.  I leave.

Last night I went to the nursing home to visit Red.  I then cried.  Craig and I went out the doors first.  My mother and niece followed.  We all then stood in a huddle at the door crying - realizing that we never know when the last visit will be - that at any time a call can come.

It is so much easier being a pastor in times like this than it is the one in need of a pastor.  Life is a journey - a journey in which the only guarantee that we all have is that we will one day all die.  I am so much better proclaiming this message than I am at living it, however.

We're trying hard to savor this visit - to savor being around the Thanksgiving table as a family tomorrow.  Tears fill my eyes just thinking about our joining hands as a family and giving thanks.

One thing is for sure - I am so thankful for Red - for his life, his love, his laughter, his joy and for his amazing ability to love my mother.

God, grant us all your peace and your strength.  Amen.

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