Months after her bone marrow transplant her cancer had returned and her doctor told her she could no longer be treated. Efforts were now directed to help her with her diminished breathing and to decide where she would receive hospice care. As I stopped to see her she turned to me and said, “I’m ok with how things are. I am at peace with myself.”
What struck me about what she was saying was how different in tone and content these words were from many of our previous conversations. During her transplant and in the time of recovery that followed we had many conversations that were filled with stress and anxiety. She often wondered if she was doing the right thing. What if it didn’t work? What if her quality of life would be poor? What if she would have unending days of weakness and pain and not be able to enjoy life?
As I thought back to those conversations and listened to her now I was struck by the transformation that had taken place in her. I couldn’t help but wonder how had this change come about? Was it the realization that all of her fears and doubts were now resolved? Was it the realization that things were now out of her hands? Was it the realization that she had done what she had thought best and even though it hadn’t worked out she had no regrets about trying?
It may have been all of these things but I couldn’t help but think that a transformation such as this is also part of the mystery of a God who is always at work behind the scenes. When a patient shares her anguish and her tears and her struggles and a chaplain listens and ponders and struggles with the patient God is present in that room and in His own way and in His own time leads the patient where she needs to go. I continue to find courage and strength in that mystery. When I am afraid to go into the rooms of the dying, when I don’t know how to advise people who are making life and death decisions, when I can’t take away people’s struggles and make things all better, I can still listen and bring compassion and know that God can bring about a transformation.