I would like to tell you a story. I have the family’s blessing to share this with you, although I have changed the name.
One evening whilst sitting in the car beside the river Wharfe, passing a little time, I received a call from the son of a former member of one of my churches. His father had died just over a year before, and I had conducted the funeral service. Although I had met the family, it was the widow Joyce, who I had kept in touch with. Joyce’s son now informed me that, very unexpectedly, his mother with not feeling too well, had gone into A & E, and then remained in the hospital having been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. He went on to say she possibly had only 24 – 48 hours to live. WHAT! Surely not, I thought to myself, but of course it was true.
Although my evening engagement was something I was looking forward to, a visit to the hospital was far more important and urgent. I had to see Joyce that evening.
When I opened the hospital room door, Joyce smiled and said how pleased she was to see me. As I sat by her bedside, she talked quite openly and honestly. The gravity of the situation had not yet sunk in. Her grand daughters had also arrived to visit, so I didn’t stay long. I held her hand before I left and said a prayer.
It was a shock to everyone when they heard the news, but as the family said, it did give everyone a little time. Joyce couldn’t believe it at first but then accepted the situation for what it was.
As it happened, against the odds, Joyce lived for another 6 weeks.
During those first weeks, when she was still well enough, Joyce was able to sort out her personal affairs, including arranging some of her funeral service. It was interesting that Joyce chose John 14 as the Bible reading. It is quite a familiar passage and is one I would have chosen, because it mentions Thomas, known down through the centuries as ‘doubting Thomas’. After her husband’s passing, I visited Joyce a few times, and we had some good conversations, including the Christian faith. Joyce admitted she wasn’t sure about what she believed. She had some doubts, and that’s ok, I assured her, there is nothing wrong with that. Doubts are good, because it means asking questions, and finding answers.
Let’s remind ourselves, how Jesus, after his resurrection, had appeared to the disciples. Unfortunately, at that time, Thomas was not with them. When the other disciples told Thomas they had seen Jesus, he said that unless he could see Jesus for himself and could put his hands in the nail’s scars of Jesus’s hands, he would not believe.
Sometime later Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was present. Did Jesus scold Thomas? Not really. In his love and mercy, he came to Thomas.
Once he had seen Jesus, Thomas fell on his knees, and cried out, “My Lord and my God. Help my unbelief”.
I believe the Lord came to Joyce amidst her uncertainty and doubts. Every time I met with her and asked if she would like me to pray, she always responded with a yes. On my last visit to see Joyce in the hospice, when the end was near, I didn’t ask because Joyce was not well enough to answer, but as I prayed, and held her hand, she, in her weakness, very gently opened her eyes, just a little, and she smiled, just a little!
Sitting by her bedside, I felt God’s presence very close, and I know, yes I know, that Joyce is now at peace and in the presence of God, and eternity.
Just as Thomas said, Lord, help my unbelief, I think that’s how Joyce was, and Jesus, in his love and mercy, came to her.
Some of us may have doubts, and perhaps don’t know what to believe, or whether to believe at all. God does not force himself upon anyone. It is up to us as individuals to seek him. From my experience, as I have sought Jesus I have known his presence, love, help and guidance in my life, as I have trusted in Him. What he has done for me, he can do for you.
Looking through some of Joyce’s boxes and books up in the loft, the family unearthed many treasures. One such treasure was an Autograph album. Inside on one of the pages Joyce had written, in 1948, ‘A Daily Prayer’. It reads as follows…
Lord, for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray.
Keep me from stain of sin, just for today,
Let me both diligently work and duly pray,
Let me be kind in word and deed, just for today.
Let me no wrong or idle word, unthinking, say;
Set thou a seal upon my lips, just for today.
Let me be slow to do my will, prompt to obey,
Help me to sacrifice myself, just for today.
So for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray,
But help me, keep me, hold me, Lord, just for today. Amen.
It was a real privilege to have seen Joyce and share the last few weeks with her and her family. One of the things I shall treasure most in our brief times together, was her beautiful smile.
May God bless all who mourn loved ones at this time.
10 Oct 23