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Reconciliation Through Embrace

Arriving at a hospice patient’s residence one evening, I rang the doorbell and was greeted with a cold reception. The daughter pointed her finger to her mother’s room, then left without a word, leaving me puzzled at her abruptness.

I entered a dimly-lit room in which a small figure, so diminutive she could easily be overlooked, was lying on a bed. A review of her personal record showed that she had been divorced for many years, had several adult children, and was now living with her daughter. Cancer had returned last year and, due to unknown circumstances, treatment was delayed. As a result, it spread unobstructed to other organs. After the doctor informed her that she had only a couple weeks to live, she reluctantly accepted in-home hospice service.

She told me to call her Ah Yuk. With a barely audible voice, she made it clear she wanted two things of me. First, I was never to ask her daughter for information about her. Secondly, I was never under any circumstances to contact her ex-husband. After I agreed to her conditions, she indicated that she was exhausted and wanted to rest. I stood there, thinking of the 45-minute drive it had taken to get there, only to speak a few words with this patient. I didn’t want to leave this lonely little lady.

So I asked Ah Yuk, “May I keep you company by sitting next to you? If you don’t find my sitting here disturbing to your rest, then simply consider me as a caring friend. You can ask me to leave whenever you want.” “Fine!” she replied. Carefully, I rearranged her pillow, pulled up the blanket, and said, “Sleep well!”

It wasn’t long before she fell asleep, even snoring lightly. I also rested my eyes, and before long, I could also hear my own relaxed breathing. To stay awake, I opened my eyes to check on Ah Yuk. She had pretty facial features, yet, even in sleep, there was a frown on her face. Instinctively, I placed my hand gently over hers. After some time, she extracted her hand and laid it on top of mine, gripping it tightly. In the quiet and dimly-lit room, with my hand being held, I closed my eyes again to rest. It wasn’t long before I could hear my own breathing again, and I drifted off for a moment. Ah Yuk’s grasp had loosened, and, in turn, I withdrew my hand and held onto hers.

Not sure how long we were asleep, we both woke up at about the same time. Smiling at me, Ah Yuk said, “I dreamed of an angel holding onto my hand, and we flew!” Curious, I asked, “What did that angel look like?” She glanced at me and said, “That angel looked like you!” I replied with a smile and asked, “Ah Yuk, are you religious?” She then explained that she and her husband used to be active in church, but since their divorce, she had not gone to church for a decade. “I think the church has de-listed me, and I am forgotten by God,” she said. I told her that God forgets our transgressions but not us. He will wait patiently for us to return to Him. I quoted the Bible verse, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16).

By now tears were streaming down Ah Yuk’s face. Wiping off her tears, I held her hands tightly and prayed with her for God’s mercy and acceptance. “Amen!” she responded wholeheartedly. I asked if she would like me to find a pastor to visit her, to which she said, “It’s not necessary. Why don’t you be my pastor?” Prior to leaving, I handed her daughter a CD of hymns and asked her to play it for her mother. I told her I was praying for her mother, and, if she was willing, I would like to have a conversation with her at my next visit, which she agreed to.

Two days later, Ah Yuk’s daughter made an urgent request for me to visit as soon as possible, indicating that her mother’s condition had worsened considerably. The daughter greeted me at the door, explaining that over the past two days her mother had been in a calmer mood, was very reasonable, and had even allowed her to come close to her. She added, “The day you were here, I had been kicked out of her room. I apologize for being rude to you that day.” This reminded me of the mistake of drawing conclusions based on a single incident. Gently consoling her, I handed her some pamphlets on caring for patients at the end of life. With tears in her eyes, she continued, “Please help my mother; she has had a very miserable life. She struggled alone to raise my siblings and me, and she is a great mother. We love her but don’t know how to express it—especially at this juncture.” I asked her, “Have you ever told her in person that she is a great mother, thanked her, and told her you love her?”

In my practice, I always see my patients before talking to their family members, so I said, “Please first let me take a look at your mother, then we’ll talk afterwards.” As I entered Ah Yuk’s dingy room, she knew I was there, and though her body and voice were further weakened, she motioned for me to sit by her. I knelt by her bedside in order to hear her better and managed to get what appeared to be a song title. “Is it the hymn ‘Flowers of the Field’ that you want to hear?” I asked. She nodded slightly. With neither guitar nor cell phone, I decided to attempt to sing the song for her.

When I finished the hymn, Ah Yuk was in tears once again. I told her that God had prepared an eternal life for her. She indicated that she wanted me to lie by her side so she could hear better. I could sense that her body was cold, even with a blanket. Instinctively, I embraced her small frame, and she responded, “Your warm body makes me feel that I’m still alive!” Then she continued, “Pure Heart, am I saved? I left the Lord Jesus so long ago.” I answered, “The Bible says clearly: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8).” I asked her, “Will you accept again eternal life by God’s grace—the salvation paid by the Lord Jesus who died for our sins?” Ah Yuk said, “I will!” I embraced Ah Yuk and prayed that God would lead her soul to receive His peace in these last days. “Amen!” said both of us together.

Just then, her daughter knocked and entered, astonished to see that I was embracing her weeping mother. I told her in detail what had just happened. She said, “Mom, I too want to share my body’s heat to warm you. I love you; thank you for sacrificing your whole life for us!” Swiftly, I got up to allow Ah Yuk’s beloved daughter to lie down and cuddle her mother, who by then was weeping with joy. I rearranged their pillows, tidied up the bed coverings, and said to them, “Sleep well!”

The next day, Ah Yuk’s daughter called to report, “Yesterday, for the whole day, I slept by my mother’s side, holding her hand tightly. Thinking that I truly owed her so much that I could never repay, I couldn’t bear to let go of her. And she was holding tightly to my hand the whole time too. I only got up to have a snack, and then lay down again. In the deep of the night, while I was sound asleep, Mother passed away in my arms and rested in peace!"

Pure Heart was a spiritual caregiver for end-of-life patients through a hospice agency. The article was taken from pureheart2018.blogspot.com ("Pure Heart Accompanying End-of-Life Patients with Love"), edited and used for Challenger with permission.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20190304
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jul-Sep 2019. CCMUSA.