He was a bear of a man, in two varieties. He was big, strong and burly, an imposing presence like a grizzly. He is also warm and kind, always ready with an encouraging word, like a teddy bear. He is one of those remarkable patients who always takes the time to ask me how I am doing and truly is interested in the answer. On more than one occasion he has asked me if he could pray for me before he left the office. It made me feel guilty at times. I was the one who was supposed to be making others feel better.
He is only one kind of bear now. The big bear aspect of his nature has faded. Cancer has removed almost 100 pounds from his frame and the tumor compressing the nerves to his left arm has resulted in incapacitating pain. He has been on hospice for over a year now, his disease incurable and his death imminent. It is hard for him to get out as much as he used to which makes the still present teddy bear side of his nature more difficult to share.
As encouraging others has been such a major part of who he is the isolation has been difficult for him. He has been wondering why he is still around, why God has yet to take him home, why he must live in so much pain when there is so little he can do for others.
He shared these thoughts with me when I stopped by his home on Friday for a hospice visit. There was not much for me to do from a medical perspective. For the last several months the only changes in his care have been increases in the dose of his pain medicine. He has been in agony, daily choosing to endure the pain rather than be comfortable yet sedated and less present for others. As bad as the physical pain is as we talked I could tell that the emotional pain was taking a greater toll. He felt he had little to give others and that was breaking his heart.
In almost the same breath as his sharing a sense of worthlessness he told me that I had been on his mind for the last several weeks and that he had been praying for me daily. He asked me how my family was, if everyone was okay. If there was anything or anyone who needed prayer it was clear he wanted to know. He told me that he loved me, not just as a doctor, but as his friend. We spoke for a few minutes more and I tried my best to encourage him.
As I turned to go he stopped me and told me to wait. He reached for his wallet and I could tell he wanted to give me a gift. “Please, no,” I said, “You do not need to give me anything! This is my job!” He shook his head insistently and told me that he wanted to give me something. He took money out of his wallet.
“Take the girls in your office to lunch on me,” he said. I hesitated, he would not take “no” for an answer. He wanted to do something, to make a difference in my life. I realized how important it was to him. He wanted to bless me, to bless my office, in any way he could. He needed to bless us, because that is who he is. He is a man who lives to bless others. I let him shove the money into my hand.
I left his home, once again moved at his kindness. As unsure as he is about why he is still around his purpose is clear to me. He is a testimony to others about what it means to be a Christian. He embodies Jesus’ teaching about putting others ahead of ourselves, of loving selflessly. He is a blessing to others, and a blessing to me. Like the Savior in His moment of suffering, my patient is choosing to consider the needs of others.
Thanks for reading. Pray for my patient, Mr. R, that God will comfort him and encourage him. Consider sharing this post and asking others to pray for him as well.