Each breath was a gift as Donna’s husband lay in the Cardiac Care Unit of the hospital, connected by tubes and wires to machines that beeped and churned. It had been less that 24 hours since the ambulance rushed Max to the ER while Donna and I raced home from Seattle.
As we stood with their family around Max’s hospital bed, the heart specialist and two nurses entered the darkened room and described the severity of Max’s massive heart attack. After a short pause, the doctor then told us that, given his condition, there was nothing more they could do. It was shattering news, yet there was peace and calm in the room as Max gave his response to the resuscitation question and the family affirmed his wishes.
“Doctor, what exactly are you saying?” asked Donna, when she followed him into the hallway, needing to confirm what she thought she’d heard the first time.
“I am so sorry,” he said as he placed his hand on her shoulder. “But there is nothing we can do. It’s only time.”
Reaching her hand to his arm, Donna then assured him. “No, Doctor. Don’t be sorry. You see, we’re Christians. Since Max’s by-passes thirty years ago, we’ve never known how long we might have here together. But we do know where Max is going.”
The doctor gently smiled and replied, “Oh, I see. You’re believers.”
While I was taken by the doctor’s gentle and compassionate manner, it was what I witnessed over the next few days that really impacted me.
Following the doctor’s pronouncement, calls were made to family and friends who arrived to give comfort and support. But it was difficult to limit friend’s visits to only five minutes at a time. People came to be an encouragement and left being encouraged by a man who, forever the mentoring pastor, was more concerned about them than what was happening to him. Oxygen masks, IV drips, monitoring machines, and a weak voice didn’t take away from Max’s natural inclination to minister to each person who entered his room. Even in the midst of his “valley of the shadow” as described in Psalm 23, he gave visitors hope and assurance.
At Max’s request, the church elders also came. But, instead of being the givers, they also became the receivers as they stood in a circle around the bed. One by one, Max affirmed each of them in their leadership role and charged the whole group with challenging words of wisdom. Though they had come to minister to their fellow Elder, they too came away inspired and encouraged.
That was two weeks ago. Today, Max is home, though quite limited with only 25% of his heart functioning. But, as his eldest son says, “God has given him some more time on this earth to minister to others. Because that is what my dad does, he touches other people on this earth all the time.”
For now, Donna says, “We’re taking it one day at a time.”
How about you? Are you walking through a shadow time in your life or know someone who is? Rest assured, there is no need to be fearful in the valley of the shadow. Hope is alive. Read Psalm 23.