Thursday, June 25, 2009

Keeping Vigil

I walked up the wooden wheelchair ramp to the back door of the one-story blue house. In the tiny kitchen the hospice nurse introduced me to the patient's wife, Eleanor. Her two step-children, Debbie and Donna, greeted me. 

The family escorted me into the living room where a hospital bed had been set up in front of the TV. Leland, a dying elderly gentleman wearing a white T-shirt, was lying in bed, unresponsive, with the clear plastic tubing of the nasal cannula draped over his ears delivering oxygen. His large gnarled carpenter's hands were folded neatly on the sheet. I had been called to come and offer prayers.

An open black leather Bible sat on the over-the-bed table. I commented on the presence of the Bible and asked if Eleanor had been reading from it. She showed me the passage from the Book of Revelation and I asked if she would like me to read it aloud. 

"See, the home of God is among
He will dwell with them as their
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with
he will wipe away every tear from their
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will
           be no more,
for the first things have passed

We gathered around the bed, held hands in prayer, and stood for a few moments in hushed silence. I opened my prayer book and read from Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd..." We said the Lord's Prayer together. Eleanor wept copiously and dabbed at her eyes with a kleenex. I took her hand to console her.

And just as I was about to bless the patient, sending him solemnly forth on his final journey, the gray tabby cat jumped unceremoniously up on the bed. 

"O, hello!" I said.

"That's Poop," the patient's wife sniffled.

"Excuse me?" I replied.

"Poop. That's the cat's name. It's his nickname."

"How do you spell that?" I asked, unsure of whether I heard her correctly.

"P-o-o-p." She slowly spelled out the cat's name.

"Oh, that's what I thought," I replied, snickering under my breath.

Gales of laughter erupted from around the bedside.

Poop settled down on the blanket between Leland's legs. The cat draped a paw over the bulge of the pillow under the covers and closed his eyes for a nap.

"He looks just like a king on his throne. He won't leave him alone. It's been like this for several days now," Eleanor said.

And so I blessed Leland and went on my way.

Poop kept silent vigil throughout the night.

1 comment:

Sukie Curtis said...

Three cheers for POOP! I hope there's a cat on my bed when it's my turn...