The Face of Christ
By: Jeannine & Don Inbody
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36
It was that time you hope will never come. That phone call in the middle of the night summoning you home. One at a time we walked into the room. There he was, quiet, too quiet, with tubes and bags hanging and beeping machines. Mom stood by his side as she always had. Holding his hand, whispering into his ear, loving him, assuring him that they would never be apart.
At first it was just us, Mom, Dad and me, but one by one, the others came. My two sisters and Jeannine. We watched and waited knowing that soon decisions would have to be made. At ninety the options are limited and we all knew time was short. There was a cloud of uncertainty, would the rest of the kids make it in time?
We weren’t the only ones there. In and out of the room, as though he were floating, the nurse parted the curtain and moved through the routines of checking vitals, lines and stats. Each time he appeared he spoke to Dad gently, quietly, calmly, directly explaining everything he was doing. As though Dad was understanding every word the nurse was saying. He seemed to pay little attention to us but at the same time was careful to never interrupt our conversations. The tenor in the room remained unchanged except when the nurse was there. As he repositioned Dad, washed his face, swabbed his mouth and moistened his lips, the nurse asked us if we thought Dad was comfortable. He focused his attention entirely on Dad and we felt a calming sense of relief when he was there. At least someone was doing something.
Late in the night the number in the room dwindled as some sot rest on the couches in the waiting room. Mom took a break while Jeannine and I stayed. The nurse appeared, gently bent down and asked, “When is your third sister supposed to arrive?” We said we hoped by one or two a.m. She had several connections to make in her route back from Europe. Having heard our words and our prayers he looked at us sincerely and said, “Good, I was hoping she would be here too. It’s been a long day for all of us and I didn’t know if she would make it in time.” His words were reassuring and hopeful and at the same time piercing. We would soon all be together for the last time.
All now included one we had only just met. There was a new member of our family floating in and out of the room bringing, hope, courage, wisdom, and relief from the petrifying fear that it wasn’t going to be okay. He patiently answered questions, supplied us with food and inquired about what else he might do. A new, integral member of our family with answers to our fear filled questions and succor for our dying father.
He cared about Dad, and he cared about our need to have the family present when Dad passed away. He did not know us before, but he became the hands, feet and face of Christ for us that day. In a difficult time, he made it his business to minister to our needs. I don’t remember his name, but we will always remember his face, his actions, his words, and by his careful attention to my dad in his hour of need, and our hours of despair.
A difficult experience made bearable by one man’s presence, caring for strangers and the dying.
“On the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and we must see the face of Christ” (Pope Paul VI)