Let me share with you a story .. true story and it just happened ...
Yesterday, on Christmas eve, I went to visit an elderly lady that I have been ministering to for the past 10 years. Her name is Margarete. She is 100 years old and lives in a nursing home. I had a short visit with her, shared some chocolates with her and prayed for God's continued blessing in her life.
I then drove the Veterans home to see my old buddy Hugh Reuss. Hugh is a wonderful Christian man that Michelle and I have known for almost 30 years. We served together years ago at Grace Bible Church in Newaygo and we served for nearly 20 years together as board members for Bible Doctrines To Live By, an evangelistic and publications ministry.
Hugh is in his mid 80's. His wife Jan passed away a couple of years ago and Hugh has advanced alzheimers. He's not the same person we remember him, but Michelle and I have made it a point to visit him a couple of times each year.
I thought I'd bring a recording to play for him. It was recorded from a message I shared 20 years ago at my ordination service. Hugh sang a song to honor our entrance into pastoral ministry. I thought maybe if he heard himself, it might spark some recognition.
However when I arrived at the VA they shared that Hugh had been taken to Metro Hospital. So I went to Metro. He was in ER room #14. I went in and found Hugh sort of laying yet trying to position himself for better breathing. I spoke to him and he looked me in the eye. I couldn't tell if there was recognition or not but I sensed there may have been. He grabbed my coat and hung on to me.
The male nurse came in and they busily took care of Hugh, hooking him to various equipment. They found it necessary to intubate him which helped his breathing. I shared I was a pastor and long time friend. They asked me if I knew how to reach family members. I didn't have phone numbers, but went to the lobby with my laptop and found phone numbers via facebook and white pages. I was able to give the hospital these numbers. I called a granddaughter who called me back and so we had the process of family calling in and coming to the hospital. Hugh was quite ill and while the hospital staff couldn't divulge everything to me (hippa laws and non family member), I sensed the urgency in their voices and Hugh was likely not to make it through this.
I had to smile as I overheard a nurse saying to a doctor, "we didn't have any contact info and then this priest appeared. It was just after he arrived that people started calling in."
They took Hugh to the ICU ward and had me walk along with them. I greeted some family members and visited for a few minutes and then left, feeling good that family members were there with more on their way.
I returned home to some family Christmas eve activities. Things settled down around 9 p.m. and I decided to go visit Hugh again with hopes of meeting and praying with some other family members.
I arrived at the Metro ICU ward and was told that family members had just left. So I went in to visit Hugh who was resting comfortably. I had a nice conversation with his attending nurse, Jamie. Hugh was non responsive. Just before 10 p.m. I read him (and Jamie) the Christmas story and prayed that he might spend Christmas with His Lord and Savior Jesus.
I returned home and by early morning i had a text on my phone from one of the family members sharing that earlier in the morning, not too long after my prayer, that prayer was answered. Hugh has passed on.
Merry Christmas Hugh.. we will miss you but know you are singing today with the heavenly choir.
I share that story because it's real, it just happened and because that's part of what I believe living the better life that Jesus offers - that is considering others as more important than ourselves. In my early years as a young man, I think I may have been selfish with my time... but I have learned in the past 20+ years in my service as a pastor, that at least one key to a better life in Christ is realized when we look outside of our own needs and desires to serve others.
I pray your Christmas offers you time to extend your hand to someone else.
Blessings, Merry Christmas!
Clint Abbott, Lead Pastor