It has been a week for remembering.
In my Wednesday morning men’s group one of the young men shared stories about his grandmother who recently died from cancer. He had been raised by her, lived with her when his father was in prison while he was a child. She taught him about right and wrong, about what it means to be a person of faith. “If it isn’t in the Bible, I probably don’t know much about it,” was one his favorite grandma quotes.
She had been a source of strength and guidance for him, a constant presence of hope and faith. He told us of going through her things and finding the book in which she wrote her prayer list. The book was thick, its pages filled with handwritten names, many of whom he did not even know. Her passing meant there was now one less person praying for him every day.
Three days later I attended a memorial service for a patient, Mr. M, who had been my patient for 8 years. At his second visit I diagnosed him with a large melanoma. Within a week a surgeon removed it and for the next five years it seemed to be gone. The cancer was seldom mentioned when he came to the office. (He had a back that went out on him a few times a year, so I saw him often.)
Our conversations frequently drifted away from the medical. We talked of golf, family and work, and developed a mutual respect and friendship. We believed the cancer was in his past and that the future would be cancer free. That belief was shattered 2 years ago when a different kind of pain appeared in his ribs. An MRI scan revealed that the melanoma had invaded the vertebrae in his upper back as well as several of his ribs. It was a battle he could not win.
I sat in his service and listened as his best friend told stories of how they had met 20 years earlier and of the close friendship that followed. He spoke of the laughter, meals and motorcycle rides they shared, and how ultimately they came to share faith in God. Mr. M’s brother-in-law shared how Mr. M had encouraged him in life and business, how he never would have achieved what he had without his input. His daughter spoke last, reading a letter she had written to her father a few weeks before he died. Through tear-filled eyes she described a man of love, dedication, strength and integrity. It was a lovely service. My eyes did not stay dry.
My patient and the grandma never met, but as I reflect on their stories I am confident that they will. The grandma lived a life of faith, daily serving God as best as she could. She died with the assurance of an eternity with Him. The patient traveled a different road. For much of His life he did not give God much thought. It was only in the last year of his life that he turned his attention to spiritual things. Nevertheless, in the months before he passed he came to share the same faith as the grandma and the same assurance of eternity. They died within days of one another, brother and sister, adopted by the Father they were going home to meet.
Their stories move me. They remind me of both the transience and the importance of this life. My time here on earth will be brief, and may be over before I know it. Even though my days on earth will be few, the potential for me to have an impact on others is great. Like them, I want to live my life in a way that makes a difference.