“She kissed my hands,” I said.
“Do you wear a ring?” she said, referencing the Pope’s ring.
“No, kinda,” a little chuckle in my reply. “It was one of the most intimate moments of my life. We prayed and she kissed my hands.”
That’s a little snippet of my counseling session yesterday. I routinely tell her about the things that happen in church and she tells me, just about every time to write them down. I’m taking her advice.
One of the major elements of my call is visiting those who are older in our community. It could be that those days with my great grandmother prepared me for this. I’ve got some good stories with her, but this is about the people I care for now. Often, I find myself looking at the calendar and realizing it’s been a month or more since I’ve seen everyone and instantly change my schedule to go visiting. Visiting is the best. It’s also heart wrenching and holy, glorious and ghastly.
There is the 104-year-old woman who is sharp as a tack and funnier than you. No insult intended, but she’s got a dry wit and sparkling eyes that are irresistible. She and her husband were the first two people baptized in our baptistry. She loves traveling and could tell you about the car trips down Route 66 and to Florida and more. She and her family could teach classes about how to care for one another. Recently, her throat muscles have given her fits resulting in therapy and a new diet. The new diet included thickening all liquids. Do you know the joy of a glass of water? It’s cool, quick journey down the throat? This 104-year-old couldn’t have it for several months. Yesterday, I walked in to see a real glass of water, not yellow tinted, lemon flavored, jello-just-before-it-sets consistency water. We celebrated the simple joy of water.
There is one couple where he suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. For years, they’ve lived separately in the same facility. Two years ago, he was still himself personality wise when I would visit. He didn’t know me, but I always explained who I was and he shared stories. Now, I don’t see him when I see him, if you know what I mean. There is his body and I speak to him, but he rarely replies. It is gut wrenching. My focus with his wife is to hear the stories of their life. We look at many of the same photos every time I visit. Those stories become more vivid with each telling. She has a name that embodies her personality: gentle, kind, encouraging. She loves the beach, going there on more than one anniversary trip.
It is my practice to hold hands when I pray with people. Recently, I read an article saying that we might consider holding hands in worship simply because that might be the only time in a given week that some would have the chance to experience the gentle touch of hand holding. What a great sadness and an opportunity to share love. It’s an instinct for me. Oh, I’m thankful for that instinct…sometimes.
Last week, as I prayed with my dear one who loves the beach, we joined both sets of hands. I spoke words to God for us. At “Amen” she leaned over and kissed my hands. Knowing what was happening, my instinct was to pull away quickly. I’m not the Pope, although I do wear a ring on my right ring finger, a sign of God’s call. With an internal struggle, I received this blessing from her. I’m still processing that holy moment. What do I do with such an incredible, intimate moment? Perhaps, say “Amen” again.