This post is the seventh in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.
There was something about visiting persons in the hospital that my father loved for as long as I can remember.
Personally, I think he sensed the vulnerability of the patient, the anxiety of the family members, and the importance of being present as a reminder they were not alone. I’m not sure where he learned this skill. But I know where I did.
Visiting church members in the hospital was something he enjoyed, which may seem strange to some of my readers.
He could walk into a room, sense the emotional and spiritual temperature of the room, and with a calm Southern drawl start a conversation that put the patient or family member at ease. He seemed to know intuitively how to bring peace into chaos and leave the situation better than he found it.
As a senior pastor of mostly large, suburban congregations, he also taught me how he got his exercise for the day by always taking the stairs at the hospital, regardless what floor the patient was on. Tenth floor? No problem, I could hardly keep up the few times I went with him as he took two steps at a time. Getting to a gym was hard for him with night meetings and being on constant call to his parishioners. So, he just worked it into his daily routine. He even parked his car in the corner of the parking lot so that he could walk farther. I thought he was crazy at the time.
Early in my career, I was the Minister of Pastoral Care in a similar size church in Louisville, KY. We were talking on the phone one day and I asked him why he didn’t ask his associate pastors and other staff members to do all of the hospital visiting so that he could concentrate on other responsibilities.
He said, “Well, Malcolm, one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that if people know that you genuinely care for them and love them, they will forgive you for other shortcomings in your ministry. This is one of the ways I can do that.” He laughed and added, “And believe you me, I have plenty of other shortcomings.”
I am grinning as I write this because I am now the Director of Pastoral Care in one of the hospitals he often visited. I can sometimes hear his voice in my own phrases or inflections as I visit and pray for a patient in the hospital.
I think of him when I take the stairs instead of the elevator and realize that his shoes walked on these same steps.
And I love to walk into chaos, and see if I can leave a little peace.
My father taught me so.
Have you ever been in the hospital, or a family member, and someone made a difference for you? What did they do? How did they help? Would you share how someone has walked into your life when it was in chaos and they somehow gave you peace?
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