by Meri McMurdo
2001 was a particularly rough year for one family from our church. My friend Billie had recently lost her mother who’d lived with her for many years. Billie herself had also battled cancer for several years.
Now Billie was worried about her husband, Jerry, who had Alzheimer’s and could no longer drive. He had grown very dependent on her, and she hated leaving him home alone, even for an hour. She worried her cancer would return and he’d be left to get along as best he could without her, and the thought broke her heart. Jerry had been more than a husband to her. He’d been a good father to her children from a previous marriage and a good friend.
When Jerry went into the hospital near Thanksgiving, everybody thought it was just for a few days of tests. When his legs collapsed underneath him, his family knew no one would be able to lift him off the floor at home, should his legs give out again. So he stayed in the hospital, his family and friends came to visit, and he tried to remain cheerful with visitors.
One thing bothered him. Christmas was near, and he had faithfully strung lights on his house every year. He fretted that his house would look dark and uncared for while he was in the hospital. His 70-year-old wife wasn’t about to climb up onto the roof to decorate.
Two weeks before Christmas I stopped by the hospital to see Jerry, and he was in the best of spirits. He told me that Aaron, one of his friends from church, had spent most of the previous Saturday putting up the Christmas lights on their house. The thought of his house shining brightly in the December darkness made Jerry smile and rest easier.
I remembered how many times I’d told a sick friend, “Don’t worry about the house. Just worry about you getting well.” I wouldn’t have thought the lights important enough to bother with, especially with Jerry’s doctors wondering how to diagnose and treat his medical problems. But I was wrong. Aaron had sensed how important the lights were to him, and had taken care of it — during the busiest part of the holiday season!
Jerry didn’t make it home for Christmas. He died in the hospital before he had the chance to see the lights that his friend had so lovingly placed on his home. But knowing that the job was done, and thinking that he would go home to a festively lit house for Christmas, had put such a smile on Jerry’s face!
Those lights were important to Jerry, and Aaron did just the right thing in listening to his friend express his worry about them not being up. Maybe we should all listen a little more carefully to what our sick friends say, and take care of whatever they feel needs to be done, whether we think it important or not.