Terminal. That’s what Daima’s file says. And I must say, at this point, I have to agree. I really only have two categories of people I visit; I call them “terminal” and “eternal”. Anyone who does net yet believe gets the label terminal and goes straight to the top of my prayer list.
I love the certainty I feel when tending to my eternal patients. We can pray together and I can truly have joy for them as I see them called to their heavenly home.
My terminal patients are why I feel called to this work. My “raison d’être”. People often ask, “How can you do voluntary hospice care? Don’t you get depressed?”
Like friends I know who get all fired up to do outreach or feed the homeless, I feel most alive when I can hold a dying woman’s hand as she moves from this earthly life into eternity with God.
My calling changed ten years ago when I spent the last weeks with my "terminal" Uncle Felix. Just hours before he breathed his last, I walked him through the salvation prayer. Tears rolled down his worn, chiselled cheeks.
In a hoarse whisper he shared, “Sally, how come I never knew Him? It’s so wonderful!”
“I know. I know. And now, you get to be with Him forever.”
Shortly after Uncle Felix’s funeral, I realized how many desperate dying people did not know Jesus. As an empty nester, not needing to earn an income, I began hospice work. I agreed to never take on more than three patients at a time. After nine amazing years, I have only had two die still “terminal”. The rest of the unbelievers have embraced the gospel with passion and joy.
Will Daima be the third? Seeing as she’s a practicing Muslim, I am treading on slippery territory. Her family remains suspicious of me, this white woman who wears a cross and seems to care too much for their daughter. I do love Daima like my own daughter. She’s hung on months longer than the doctors predicted. Yesterday she reached her goal of celebrating her daughter Delia's tenth birthday.
Today may be my last visit. I feel exhausted and close to desperation.
God, please. I’m pleading for Daima’s soul. Lord, release her from the bondage of Islam. God, give me a sign that I can share the Good News with her today. Lord, please give me an opening. Thank You Jesus for dying for me and for Daima. May she know the truth and be set free.
My arm aches with sadness as I raise it to ring the doorbell.
“Hello Sally. Daima’s waiting for you.” Daima’ mother says with no emotion, but I can see the pain clouding her deep brown eyes. Her weathered face has aged ten years since I met her six months ago.
Head tilted slightly down, I move sleek as a panther toward the “sick” room. One by one, I feel the dark eyes of her relatives piercing my heart as I keep my eye on the door. I lightly tap three times. I hear Daima’s raspy voice, “Come in Sally.”
The door creaks as I slide in. I close it behind me then turn toward Daima. I give her my best smile.
“Hi Sweetie. I missed seeing you yesterday,” I try to sound cheerful as I sit next to her on the edge of the bed.
“The birthday party for Delia was lovely.” She catches her breath before she can say more,
“So much happiness.”
“I can’t wait to see the pictures. Now you just rest. No need to wear yourself out with talking,” I say as I caress her boney hand.
“Sally, I’m afraid to die.” I feel her begin to tremble all over as fear engulfs her.
“Shh. Shhh. It’s okay.” I pull her into a gentle hug as she then starts to weep.
God, is this my opening?
“I had a terrible dream. In my dream I died.” She’s again out of breath and lies back and closes her eyes, tears slipping down.
She continues, “To get to Heaven I needed to cross the most beautiful bridge. But, I wasn’t allowed to cross. No matter what I said about being such a good mother, I could not cross the beautiful bridge. What does this mean, Sally?”
Oh God! Thank You!
I unfasten my cross and place it in Daima’s hand, “Daima, let me tell you about the Beautiful Bridge to Heaven…”
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