I have sat by too many bedsides.
Six, to be exact.
You’re thinking that’s not so many. That my number is not as great as a hospice worker’s or doctor’s or Mother Teresa’s. But it looms large to me.
Two were easy, actually. In 1999, I stayed with, first, my Tennessee sister and then my South Carolina sister while they recovered from serious surgeries. Since my sisters were strong and healthy, they healed quickly. I mostly snacked and juiced and entertained them until they were ready to go home. Easy assignments that didn’t greatly impact my life.
But every other bedside vigil involved tears and heartache and passionate petitions to God.
- In June 2000, a group of us teachers huddled in an ICU waiting room while my cancer-ridden co-worker and apartment mate silently slipped away. She was thirty-two and left behind many unfulfilled dreams—including marrying a man in uniform!
- In July 2009, my big brother died of lung disease in a sterile ICU. I sat alone by his side because he had he so completely alienated exes and children and those he once called friends.
- From August 2009 to February 2010, I spent almost every day with my best friend, keeping watch as breast cancer ravaged her body. Her battle was short and vicious. But her faith flamed like a beacon in the night. Many found Christ because of her testimony.
I began sitting by her bedside when she lived with me and experienced her first mini-strokes. Mom calling my name or wandering around the apartment would wake me in the night. I would sit in the pink fuzzy chair in her room and calm her until she slept.
Because of the mini-strokes and complications with her emphysema, we had to move Mom to a nursing home in February. There, my dedicated oldest sister has taken the lion’s share of responsibility for keeping her company. I share the vigils as best I can and wonder how much more my mother can take.
But white matter damage (brain stuff), dementia, and old-age are slow destroyers. Night after night, Mom struggles with fear and confusion. She yells until she’s hoarse, calling for help and comfort—even when someone is sitting right by her side.
Though my mother’s battle does not seem to have an end in sight, I believe that God cherishes her and trust He has a plan. I cling to the evidence that this is so.
Your eyes saw [my mother’s] unformed body. And all the days ordained for [her] were written in Your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
You have kept count of my [mother’s] tossings and put [her] tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8
And I wonder how often I am like my mom—calling out for the care and attention of my Heavenly Father, believing He has abandoned me, when all the time He has been keeping watch by my side.
These words from Corrie Ten Boom remind me that even in the worst circumstances, God is there. He may remain silent, but He is keeping watch.
So be comforted, my soul, and wait patiently for Him. He never abandons His own.