Nearly Done

This time I visit myself not long ago while I was still on the job

On a Sunday afternoon after church, the old pastor goes to the hospital to sit with the new widow.  Her husband, who suffered lifelong depression, had just carried out an oft-repeated threat and shot himself.

The pastor steps into the room and sees her sitting by the bed where the body lies, his head wrapped in a bloody rag. The Pastor sits next to her and listens as she shares the untold story of her watching him constantly over the years. If she went anywhere–the store or to church–she hurried back as fast as she could. On this occasion, the husband didn’t give her enough time to get back.    

They sit with the body for hours.  It takes all afternoon for the hospital, the funeral director, and the coroner to tend to the business of this man’s death. Eventually, the time and place of the funeral are set.

Before they take the body, the pastor stands over it and touches his arm. 

“I wish I had known,” he whispers.  “I’m sorry I didn’t help you.”

As the sun sets, everyone leaves the hospital.  As he drives home, the pastor prepares himself for the question the widow will ask him once the funeral is over, the relatives go home, and the shock has worn off:   

“Did my husband go to hell?”

He has had to answer that question many times over the years. He will take the widow’s hand and say quietly, “No, my friend. God does not punish anyone for being ill. Your husband has suffered enough and now is safe with Jesus.”

He doesn’t believe in God or heaven or hell anymore, but she’ll need to hear the words. 

He pulls into the garage. No one else is home. He changes clothes and sits in his recliner as the darkness of the evening sets in. After thirty-five years of this work, the pastor is exhausted and numb.

“Hang on,” I whisper to him, “You’re nearly done.”

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