Sunday, December 02, 2012
Live Like Betty
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Because I have been in ministry for nigh on thirty three years I have listened to parishioners share just about every gloomy diagnosis possible. A disturbing variety of cancers, HIV, aneurisms, miserable diseases such as Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis. You name it, I've been told about it. It is a crappy part of the job and I never get used to it. I feel the jolt of shock when good people are coming to grips with the implications of these illnesses, often when they thought they were in the fullness of life. I have learned to mask my dismay fairly well, and to talk through what this means to the individual. I encourage and pray, seeking God's presence in difficult times. I have certainly come to realize that the best physicians can only give well-informed estimates of the effects and outcomes of diseases. There are no crystal balls.
Six and a half years ago one of our beloved members, Betty, discovered that she had a cancer that tends to kill people quickly -- six months to a year. She decided to go ahead with surgery to remove as much of that cancer as possible, along with rearranging her innards to do so.
Some people thrive on speculatiing about the illnesses of others and I was privy to conversations which had Betty gone in no time. She though, decided that she would do what she needed to live, and she did so with a calm and an understated courage that impressed me in our first conversation and every one after that through the years.
I often wonder whether I would slide into depression if I got bad medical news, or just give up. There was hardly a time when I walked away from a conversation with Betty where I didn't think, and often say to my wife Ruth, I want to live like her.
Betty continued to enjoy life with her husband Don and her adult children and grandchildren, even through treatments which were debilitating. She was very social and delighted in her circle of friends. S|he took on the role of chair of the church board even though we gave her the "out" of her illness, and she stayed involved with other community leadership jobs.
I'm not trying to promote Betty to sainthood here, but folks, we could all do well to live like Betty, staying in the moment and finding the goodness in each day. The last few weeks were very difficult for her and demanding for her attentive and loving family. They rallied to bring Betty home from the hospital and from her bed she welcomed a host of family and friends with grace and humour. A circle of friends kept food pouring into the household to support them. What a gift on the part of both family and friends to make this happen. What a gift she was to all of us.
As her energy ebbed away, and death crept closer, Betty told her daughter-in-law that life is good. It is. We can all honour her memory by following her example. She asked me to read the twenty third psalm on several occasions in the last days. She walked through the valley of the shadow of death by affirming life.Thank you Betty.