Psalm 23: When the Virus Comes Home…

Psalm 23

The virus came home to us this week.

I’ve watched it on the news for weeks, for months now, as I know you have as well.

I have watched as the anonymous numbers rose in our county and beyond.

I have prayed with nurses whose vocation lives and breathes in the intensive care unit of our local hospital, listening to their sometimes paralyzing fear of contracting this disease or just taking it home to vulnerable ones they love.

I have wept with those who grieve the loss of dear ones who were in their care and whose funerals must now be delayed.

It came home to us this week, though, in the message that my uncle, our dad’s brother, has been diagnosed. And though it may not take him, it surely might, for he is so very fragile.

And my grief in this, as it is with so many, is great for many reasons, but perhaps most deeply for this: that those who love him most and best cannot be at his side today.

And yes, I saw this first hand just a few days back when one I know called and asked if I would come to pray with one who was nearing death. Not as a result of COVID-19, this one, but breathing her last, nonetheless.

I had not entered the hospital in weeks and so with quaking heart I put my collar on and made my way:

  • first to the front desk where they screened me for symptoms and then donning a surgical mask,
  • up the stairs so as to avoid touching anything in the elevator
  • and down the hall where an ICU nurse met me at the door, explaining as we walked that the woman’s family lives far away, that they had let them see her via Facetime, and that they had made the decision to let her go.
  • But first, could there be prayer?

And so I did, we did together,  two nurses and me — commending this beloved one into God’s eternal care. And then they returned her blood to her (for she was on dialysis), removed the apparatus which was keeping her breathing, and turned off the i.v. medicine which had kept her blood pressure up these many hours.

And this. Those two nurses stood one on either side of her, holding her hands until the end even as they pledged they would.

It was all of twenty minutes later that her pressure started to drop and I stepped forward for one more prayer. And then, oh, this is so. Her eyes opened wide and fixed on something over my shoulder and it was as though she smiled to see what we could not.

It was beautiful and I was grateful to be there, bringing what gifts I could, and then pausing once more to pray for those two precious nurses that they might know strength and courage and comfort in an unspeakably difficult time.

For this they told me. They have walked through such painful times before. But never before have they had to stand in for loved ones again and again. And again.

And it breaks their hearts a little more every single time..

And yes, this is part of the heartbreak of this time, it seems to me.

We are accustomed to doing hard things, yes. But we are not accustomed to doing them from such a distance, without the benefit and the comfort of the rituals we so rely on. Spoken ones, yes, and things we do in such times, of course,  but also those which include simply standing alongside, holding a hand, embracing — literally —- another’s pain, drying one another’s tears.

And so it is in these days I am leaning into the beloved words of a Psalm most of us know by heart and the promises which ring so clear in the promise that we have a Shepherd who wants only good things for us and who is doing all he can to bring them to us even now.

And I am comforted by this, by the learning that comes to me now in the teaching of Ray Vander Laan in his “Faith Lessons” on ‘green pastures.’  I commend it to you now, this understanding that God feeds us a little bit at a time, leading us on, leading us on…

  • Even as I was fed this week to witness the devotion of two ICU nurses who in the face of their own grief, held the hand of one who was dying.
  • And even as I am comforted today by the certainty of the countless others who are stepping in and stepping up to do the same in behalf of those who cannot in these difficult days.

And oh, I am taken back today to a memory which is still tender these decades later. That of another nurse who rode with my dad in an ambulance through a foggy early January night — who sought us out later to tell us that she held his hand all the way there.  When we could not.

Indeed, when we could not, when we cannot be there, someone was, someone is.

And for all of us, all the time, the Shepherd surely is…

  • Please take a minute to watch the video linked above. How does this explanation of the shepherd feeding her sheep shape your understanding of how God provides for us?
  • I describe above one particular heartbreak of the time we are in. Has this also been your experience? What would you add from your own living in this time?
  • Who have you seen ‘standing in’ when another cannot? How has this been sustenance for you in these days?
  • How else is God feeding you, leading you along step by step by step? How are you learning to trust our Shepherd in this time?

18 comments

  1. Linda D. Sanderson. says:

    Bless you all for being there for this lady in your story. What a gift you were to her during that time. Say prayers everyday for you, Pastor Janet. So sorry to hear of your Uncle, also. 🙏

  2. Carrol Davenport says:

    Lovely, thank you for this reminder not only as a spark of insight for my preaching but for my own life, as well.

  3. Judi says:

    Thanks again Healing shepherd Pastor Janet. Longing for some clarity of God’s accompaniment, this brought some Light.

  4. Bill Lucas says:

    I served as a part-time hospital chaplain over 8 years. One of the most moving and poignant experiences I ever had involved a little 80+ year old lady who was to be discharged later in the day; looking at her I could only smile and recall my own grandmothers and their spunk. Listening to the patient’s story, as a chaplain is trained to do, I learned that she had been widowed twice before the age of 34, leaving her to care for four children as well as being the sole breadwinner. She worked two and three jobs for years, determined to give her children a solid Christian home with food on the table, clothes to wear, and an education with which to carry on after leaving home. Hers was definitely “the green pastures” depicted in the video: sparse bits of edibles with just enough moisture to sustain it yet, in trusting the Shepherd, always enough on which to live until the next day. This went on for many years. The patient told me that she was proud that each of her children had at least masters degrees and two were doctoral candidates. Upon discharge, she knew she was going to her daughter’s home under hospice care, that her days on earth were drawing to a close. But with sparkling eyes that brimmed with all the faith and love imaginable, she smiled and told me, “God has never given me everything I wanted, but he has always given me everything I need. My time is drawing near but I know Jesus will be my Shepherd as I walk through the valley of death to the light of eternity.” After praying with her, I walked from this patient’s room, wondering just who had ministered to whom. Soli Deo Gloria!

  5. Julie karolus says:

    Thankful that God puts us all in our places for those that truly need us! Thankful he gives us the words and compassion to help families when they probably need us most! Divine appointments for sure! Thanks be to God!!!

  6. Raye D. Stone says:

    Thank you, Pastor Janet, for sharing ‘Faith Lessons on Green Pastures’ ~ that God feeds us a little bit at a time…enough for what we need today. But that He is leading us on…So that we don’t get overwhelmed or plan too far ahead. He guides us just enough so that we can make it through to another day…Then He will be there to guide us again into a new day. Thanks be to God!
    So sorry to hear that your Uncle has the virus! Praying that he will recover!

  7. Eric Faret says:

    I had a similar experience 2 weeks ago when my aunt was dying. I called the rehab center and two wonderful recreation therapists were facilitating the facetime call. I knew my aunt loved the psalms so I read psalm 23 to her. I know the angels were surrounding her and the Good Shepherd would comfort her as she was leaving this world. I said a final prayer and then her granddaughter said goodbye. I can’t think of more comforting words than psalm 23. A great promise and comfort.
    I appreciate the staff who held my aunt’s hands and helped us say goodbye when we could not be there.

  8. Carol Dennison says:

    It reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread”! We will have what we need. Thank you so much for the link and for your experience. Our hospitals and care homes are not letting anyone in including spiritual caregivers. Good thing God is with us and they cannot keep God away! Blessings.

    • Janet Hunt says:

      Carol, the same is true here. No one is allowed in. The story I offer here was an exception made at the ‘end of life.’ Indeed, God is with us. Bless you as well.

  9. Pat Ellison says:

    Dear Janet, you have touched my heart with this video about “just enough” and with the impossibility of our desiring to be everywhere for everyone in contrast to the sure and certain hope and faith that the Lord puts someone near all persons in need. It may be us, but in a place we least expected.
    Thank you for that tremendous proclamation of faith. Peace to your house. Pat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *