You have heard people use the phrase about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s. I have understood this to mean that it is important to take care of the details when you are doing a job. You can’t really say you’ve done the job unless you have taken care of every last detail including crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.
This phrase came to my mind last week as I sat with a cancer patient. He had just been told that there were no longer any treatment options that could be done. He was told that he had at best just a couple of weeks left to live. He asked the nurse to have a chaplain come to comfort him. When the call came into the office and I heard the patient’s name I volunteered to go because I had talked with him many times over the previous months. We had established an open and comfortable relationship with each other. I hoped this would help him to be able to speak freely at this crucial time in his life.
He started to cry when he saw me come into the room. We talked for a few minutes about the devastation a person feels when their hope is taken away and then the patient said,”Can I ask you something?” I said, “Sure”. He said, “I’ve been told that in heaven there are choirs that stand around and sing. I’m not that crazy about singing myself. If that’s what heaven is going to be I’m not so sure that I really want to go there.” We both laughed as we contemplated what does heaven have to offer for those who are not musically inclined. I told him about a parable that Jesus told in which the master told his servants that he was going to go away for a while but he wanted them to stay busy while he was gone so he gave each one some money to work with and went away. When the master came back and asked how his servants had fared with the money he had given them, one of them said he had multiplied his masters’ money ten fold. The master commended the servant and then told him, “Now you will be given ten cities to rule.” I said to the patient, ” This tells me that in the life to come we will be given more responsibility and bigger things to do. If we have used our gifts here we will get to use them more fully in the life to come.” The patient liked this thought. He said, “I have always been a problem solver. That was my job and I relished solving problems.” As he contemplated being able to use his gifts in an even greater capacity his face lit up at the prospect he wouldn’t be standing around in a choir robe.
From this topic we moved on to his thoughts about his children. His daughter had just moved back home from living out West and he could see that she and her family were going to be all right. He had some peace of mind that his children were going to be there to help his wife and would also be there for each other. He had wanted more time. He had wanted to see his grandchildren grow up but he was coming to peace with what was going to happen. That is when it struck me that he was dotting his i’s. He was taking care of some very important details.
I marveled at the changes I saw taking place in this man’s heart as we sat and talked freely and openly with one another. I feel so richly blessed to be able to sit with people in one of life’s most sacred moments and see devastation give way to peace. I pray that all of you will also be given this gift of finding the courage to enter into the sacred space of some one you love so they can share with you their deepest hopes and fears. We all have the privilege and the opportunity to help others dot their i’s.