I had close to a thousand things to do the day before our party. Okay, maybe a few dozen, but I admit, my head was not into doing the hospital visits for my church and I hadn’t been able to find someone to trade days with.
So there I was in the hospital comparing the list of admissions to our church member list. Hope spurred me on when there’d been no matches and I only had a few more to look through. Was I going to get off easy? “Oh please, oh please, oh please!” But there it was, the third last name – Mr. Williamson. His wife was the one who attended, but he was still a member in our books.
I jotted down the room number and hurried down the hall. Perhaps he was going to be asleep, or getting therapy somewhere. Then I was disgusted with myself at even thinking that way. I was determined to pay him a cheerful visit, albeit short.
I peeked into his private room and saw his pale skeletal face and sunken closed eyes. Fear clutched my heart and my face flushed. Had he already passed away? But as I drew near, I heard his quick rattly breaths. I dug into my book for a card thinking that I’d just write a message for either him or his family from the church. That’s when he opened his eyes and gazed at me, freezing me where I stood.
“Who are you!” he demanded, deep grooves in his forehead.
“G…g…good morning, Mr. Williamson! I’m from the United church and you were on my list of people to see.” Normally I asked how patients were, but it was obvious he was in deep distress. So I asked him about his family and where he grew up. At first, he only gave monosyllabic answers but soon we were chatting about his time spent in the air force and how he had to move constantly for his job.
While he spoke, I glanced in my book at the report from the previous church visitor. It said: Mr. Williamson has advanced lung cancer and definitely does not want church visitors.
Well, too late.
He turned his head and stared silently out the window.
I struggled to think of something to say. We both know he only had a very short time left to live.
“Mr. Williamson, our church has a prayer team. Would you like me to add your name onto our list?” The worst he could do was say no, right?
But he didn’t.
“You know,” he started, squinting at me. “I’ve always known there was more to this life than what I saw.” He groaned as he turned on his side to face me. “I just had this feeling…”
Shivers ran down my back as I grinned at him. “Oh, Mr. Williamson, your instincts served you correctly. I’m sure God has been whispering to you all your life!”
From that moment on, his heart opened. His stern character softened and he allowed me to pray for him. The rest of the world drew back. Only he and I existed for those few precious moments. I hastily said goodbye when he couldn’t hold his eyes open anymore, but was humbled by God’s plan for me that day.
I learned later that I was the last person to speak with Mr. Williamson. He’d faded into unconsciousness, and passed away the following day. Had I not been so busy, I might have seen that Mr. Williamson did not want visitors, and stayed away. But God orchestrated the circumstances so that I was at the right place at the right time. When I told his family about our chat, they were overjoyed. The change of plans proved to be one of the most powerful moments of both Mr. Williamson’s life and mine.
It brought to mind many of the stories in the Bible of people who’d been taken on detours of much grander scales: Paul and Silas in prison, (Acts 16:16 – 38) and Joseph (Genesis 37 – 45). Without being forced into different situations, Paul, Silas and Joseph couldn’t possibly have been as affective as God’s tools.
Has your life had detours that have brought about positive changes?