I was asked to make a pastoral visit this week to a very ailing family member of someone from our church. Her cancer had spread throughout her body and she was on heavy doses of pain medicine. She did not have a church home, but had often attended Bible studies with friends. She was aware of God’s presence with her, and in a way, of God’s absence. She welcomed my visit.
And she talked. And I listened. It was a good conversation. But she couldn’t get my name right. And that bothered her. She called me Grace. The first time it slipped right past me. I was engrossed in her story and didn’t notice. She stopped in the middle of a sentence and said, “That’s not your name, is it? What is it?” “Helen,” I said, “But I don’t mind.” Back into her story she went, pausing now and then as she drifted in and out of sleep. Then she called me Grace again. She stopped herself. “Why did I do that?” she said, chastising herself. “What is your name?” “It’s Helen, but I like the name Grace, too.” And we talked a little about the meaning of names. We paused. She began her story again. “You know, Grace,” she said to me…pausing as she thought. She stopped. “WHY, to I keep doing that?” she said, as much to herself as to me. But I didn’t answer. Suddenly I knew why. I knew that it could be the medication; I knew I could remind her of someone else… but most of all what I knew was that she was re-naming me. And my new name reflected the nature of what God does. Grace sits at the bedside of someone who is alone. Grace holds the hand of one who is dying. Grace doesn’t struggle for words. Grace just is. Not me. Not Helen, but Grace. I felt terribly humbled and honored at the same time and filled to tear at the grace of it all.
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