June 1, 2013
I have an open invitation to our hospice team to contribute inspiring stories and our fairly new volunteer coordinator, Scott, took me up on it. So here is Scott’s story and I hope you are inspired, challenged and encouraged by it:
I have found it amazing to note what can be said when no words are spoken. Such is the case with Mr. Dixon. I only had the privilege of knowing Mr. Dixon for a few short hours but I consider him a friend and I hope you find joy in the story of our friendship.
There is a division of SOMC Hospice’s Volunteer Department called the 11th Hour Team. This team consists of Hospice Volunteers who will give their time to sit with patients in the last moments of their lives. The 11th Hour Team is primarily activated when a patient has no family members within the area or they are the last member of their line. As the Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice, I organize and am fortunate enough to also participate in this capacity.
I received the call on a warm fall afternoon that one of our long time patients, Mr. Dixon, needed the assistance of the 11th Hour Team. My afternoon had just opened up and I decided that instead of arranging a schedule of volunteers I would go sit with Mr. Dixon for awhile. I hurried to the hospital where he had been transferred just that morning. As I approached his room two nurses met me at the door and informed me of Mr. Dixon’s quick decline.
“Just this morning he was wide-eyed and smiling,” one nurse said. “I think he even winked at me after breakfast,” the other nurse told me.
As I walked in, I found the silence of Mr. Dixon’s room peaceful as he laid there unresponsive. Just as my father taught me as a child, I introduced myself and shook Mr. Dixon’s hand. And so our friendship began.
I did all of the talking. Starting with my personal biography, leading into how I met my wife, college years, basketball memories, my faith in Jesus Christ and eventually how I found myself in Southern Ohio. Mr. Dixon heard all about who I was. After a few hours talking about myself I suddenly stopped. At this point in our friendship I had not let go of Mr. Dixon’s hand. I began to feel like my talking was pointless and he probably could care less about what I had to say, if he could even hear me at all. I said out loud, “Mr. Dixon, I will stop talking now and just be quiet.”
As I began to let go, something happened, Mr. Dixon squeezed my hand. It was a quick, gentle but most importantly, a noticeable squeeze. My new found friend wanted to hear more.
As the hours passed I continued to talk, share stories and pray. I prayed that our gracious Lord would be with Mr. Dixon. I prayed that he might find peace. I prayed that the love of Jesus Christ would fill him and most importantly, I prayed that Mr. Dixon would accept Jesus into his heart.
Mr. Dixon never squeezed my hand again. He passed very peacefully seconds after one of our many prayers. I full-heartedly believe that Mr. Dixon gave his life to Christ. Whether it was on that hospital bed moments before his last breath, or whether he accepted Christ years before and he just allowed me to talk and pray with him, I do not know. But what I do know is this: words are powerful and prayer is influential. Just because you may pray and do not have an instant response does not mean it is not heard. Just because you speak words that have no immediate reply does not mean they are not felt.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” Whether you pray daily or have never prayed at all, I hope you start and never stop because at the last moment, when you think there is no use, you just might feel a squeeze of your hand.