One evening, I was called to meet with a church family as they moved their loved one into a hospice facility. It was a very emotional experience for everyone. Words seemed so futile in the face of a devastating medical prognosis that basically says, “we can do nothing else.”
We held hands around the bed, and sang several familiar hymns. One quivering voice said, “I love you Mom.” Very quickly, others began to remember family meals, holidays, and even humorous events of the past. Tears mingled with happy memories of a family that loved each other very much.
Then, one by one, family members prayed for their mother, wife, aunt, and cousin. No one wanted to leave, but go they must. One daughter, in her mid-thirties, told me that she was going to stay by her mother's side for the duration. She was a well-appointed professional, with perfectly coiffed hair, proper make-up, and the scent of exclusive cologne. Her look of determination rebuffed any argument to reconsider.
Over the next two weeks, the mother's health declined quickly. Her final hours seemed imminent. But the more shocking development was in the appearance and demeanor of the daughter who was serving as the caretaker. With each visit, I saw her become haggard, gaunt, and introverted. The burden of her mother’s health seemed to latch on to her. Her loving family and worried nurses tried to get her to go home for a while, but she would not budge.
Once, when we were alone, I asked her why she felt she had to be there every minute. With swollen eyes she looked at me and said, “Pastor, this is the most honorable thing I can do with my time. As the Scripture says, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother.’” (Exodus 20:12) She was a true caregiver.
From that time forward, I have revered the caregiver. Whether they were paid, or volunteered, or were a family member, it is quite marvelous to see someone show such love and compassion for the sick and infirm. Each selfless act of mercy is a testament of honor, respect, and love.
In the Scriptures, there were many examples of wonderful caregivers. David stayed by the bedside of his sick son. Ruth cared for Naomi. In Genesis 49, all the family gathered around the bedside of Jacob for his final moments of life.
But the best example of a caregiver is Christ Himself. When we were at our worst in our sins, He loved us (Romans 5:8). He gave his very life for us as He fulfilled the Scripture, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Today, I salute all of those who are serving as caregivers to someone in need. You are the hands of God at work. May the Lord comfort and strengthen you.