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Sunday Morning Musings: But For The Grace of God
It’s a mix of anticipation and dread I experience as I plan to visit my friend Katie* for the second time this week.
I love Katie, and for years have looked forward to our weekly visits where we chat and pray, share, learn from, and encourage each other.
But Katie’s current condition is grim. She is mostly bed-ridden and on hospice care. If you can call it that. A couple of weeks ago I noticed her big toe sticking out of the bandages around her foot. “Your toe is black,” I said in surprise.
“I know,” she said. “Isn’t it awful?”
On Tuesday she told me that she had run out of pain medication and was told by the hospice nurse that she wouldn’t get another supply until Friday.
Excuse me, but isn’t this the whole mission of hospice care? To make the patients comfortable? To provide pain relief? They have ONE JOB, and this particular hospice can’t even seem to do that.
Meanwhile, I watch Katie fight for a more comfortable position, all the while knowing there is no such place. Every movement exacerbates the constant pain she’s already in. Here I am with my offering of ice (she loves ice) and peanut butter cookies.
I wake the next morning full of rage and ready to give a piece of my mind and few well-chosen threats to the hospice powers that be. But as I pray about it, it seems like God is saying, “This is not your battle.”
No. It’s not. Katie’s children oversee her care.
When I arrive on Thursday, Katie stifles her moans of pain, even though I tell her she doesn’t have to when I am there. I’ve heard groaning actually helps to relieve pain. But she doesn’t want to disturb anyone with her selfishness.
I wonder aloud what the point of such suffering is.
It seems like I’ve read or heard explanations of the reason for it, but I can’t remember. Is it to teach others compassion? Is it a cleansing of sorts, for those who are suffering? I used to tell my occasionally whiny children that no one was hanging them from a cross. But when I see Katie, I wonder how close to that kind of suffering she is.
And I wonder why it seems some of us are chosen to suffer and some don’t seem to be. They die peacefully in their sleep, never needing so much as an aspirin.
I think of all that I’ve learned from Katie over the years. All the interesting and painful tidbits she’s shared from her own life including her abusive childhood. I wonder why she’s had so little comfort in her life. Will her pain make me more appreciative of my currently pain-free life?
As I stroll into my kitchen to nuke something for breakfast, I think how blessed I am. I can have what I want to eat and prepare it myself just the way I like. I’m ambulatory. I don’t have to rely on the whims of others for even a sip of water or a bite of food. I’m not in so much pain that I can’t even think or focus or pray.
“There but for the grace of God go I.”
Oh, the number of times my father shared that quote along with so many others.
“I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
That was another of his favorites as he warned us against self-pity and instead instilled gratitude.
When life was good Dad would tell me to get down on my knees and give thanks. When life was troublesome, he told me to, “offer it up.”
Is that what we’re meant to do? Offer up our suffering, remember what Christ went through for us and through our pain we might draw closer to Him?
I ask Katie what I can do. How can I help. Sometimes it’s just, “Talk to me.” I scramble for things to say just to say something. The minutiae of my own life and that of my family and neighbors. I ramble on, hoping this kind of distraction gives her some small amount of relief.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that we should all do what we can to alleviate suffering. Even if it doesn’t seem like much.
*Not her real name.
©2023 Barbara Meyers