Regret. According to Webster it means, “to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done.” Most of us have felt regret at some point in time over an unkind word that was said or a decision that was made. But what if your entire life was nothing but regrets? A life of nothing but sadness, disappointments, loneliness?
Recently at Hospice Home we had such a patient. He was living in conditions that no human being should be allowed to live in. Yes, he had made poor choices in life but he had also been dealt a difficult hand. As I sat by his bedside he told me about how he had been robbed, how he had been beaten up, and how he had been raised on the streets. He told me about his poor decisions of drug use, stealing from others, taking advantage of others, and even killing someone who had tried to break into his “home.” He was full of anger and hate towards others and towards himself. He wanted desperately for God to hear his prayers. He tried to help people out in hopes that God would hear his prayers. He tried being nicer so God would hear his prayers. But he couldn’t figure out how to let go of his anger and I think deep down inside he knew that is why he felt like God was not hearing his prayers. He said, “You don’t understand what I’ve done. You don’t understand how it feels to have someone rob from you. You don’t understand my anger? I think God is punishing me and will never hear me.”
We spoke for well over two hours that first day. He heard the story of David and how he had failed God but once he repented God used David to do mighty things. He had never heard that David had an affair and killed a man because of it. He had only heard something about David fighting some guy that was an enemy of God. He had no idea God would/could forgive those kinds of poor choices. He saw a glimmer of hope.
We talked about the injustice that Jesus faced because of sin and yet He was able to forgive. I shared a very personal story in my own life of an injustice that has required me to dig to the deepest parts of my soul to forgive someone not just once but every single time a feeling of anger or sadness begins to crop up in my soul. We talked about how Satan loves for us to be angry at God or to feel deserted by God when someone hurts us because then anger will fill the spaces in our hearts that God should have. We talked about how that kind of forgiveness can only come from the power of God in us and how and it will draw us closer and closer to the one who loves us like no other, God. His heart began to soften as I saw him weep.
When I called him, “Sir,” he responded, “Don’t call me ‘sir’ I was only a private in the army,” I responded with, “I didn’t call you ‘sir’ because of a military rank, I called you ‘sir’ because you were created in the image of God and that alone makes you worthy of my respect.” He had never been told he was worth respect before. I saw him sit up a little straighter.
The next day this patient was new man. As he left he told our nurse supervisor he had forgiven everyone who had hurt him and he knew God was hearing his prayers. Just to put a little proof in that, his inhalers that had been lost were found and returned to him; something he had been praying for. He was not the same man who entered our care when he left. He had been transformed by God.
His change didn’t come because a chaplain went by his room. I was only a part of the team; a team that started with an Executive Director who felt compassion on him, a doctor that took care of him, nurses and CNAs that treated him like a human being and said kind things to him, a social worker who worked hard to meet his physical needs, and most of all a God who loved him enough to send His son to die for him, and living inside the staff who served him allowing him to see for the first time the kind of love that can only come from God. What a blessing to be a part of the team! What a change in a life because of a team effort! Glory to God in the highest from whom all blessings flow.
Written by: Gayla Parker, Little Rock Comfort Care Center's Bereavement Coordinator & Chaplain