Wednesday, January 14, 2004


When I saw Arthur the other day, I accidentally knocked his water off on the floor. It was only my second visit as a chaplain; I was talking and laughing and gesturing and--oops! Arthur smiled and told me not to worry about it. I asked the nurse for a towel and stooped down and mopped it up.

Today I saw Arthur again. I entered his room with a smile and a greeting only we would understand: "Mr. K, I haven't knocked anyone's water over in two days!" Our conversation this time was deeper, more real, more open. Two or three times he let his frustration with his cancer show. I saw his disappointment about life--Someone was not keeping his contract. Life was playing a cruel trick. We spoke namelessly of the kinds of things that support us--accountants we've known for 50 years, wives who come faithfully every day, people who keep up the normal flow of our lives in a steady, predictable pattern, until something uninvited and unexpected happens...what did he call it? An obstacle, no--it had a more earthy name that I can't quite recall now.

We talked about not knowing how we'll get through something...about how things often look more unmanageable than they turn out to be, one step at a time. All of this was discussed within the context of our normal lives--his business, my kids, school, schedules. The second time the frustration surfaced, I got the signal it was time for me to go. I patted his shoulder and smiled and excused myself, thanking him for the visit. I felt we did good work together there in a very few minutes, and I found myself wishing I could do something to help Arthur believe that life wasn't a cruel joke and that God wasn't playing some do-it-right-or-else game. But at the place we were with each other in this beginning relationship, I couldn't address it directly. Besides, I know what it feels like. I've felt that way before too.


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