The Smile

One of the most precious aspects of my job is “bearing witness” at the foot of the cross. It is a sweet sorrow, lending comfort and prayerful presence,and most usually painful. But every so often I witness a piercing of the veil between heaven and earth, and experience a descent of the divine spirit of love, and can’t believe my good fortune.

Last weekend I was present for one of those delightful moments.  The patient was an elderly gentleman from Pakistan who hovered very near death. Just the day before, his family told me they were anxiously awaiting the arrival of his granddaughter from out-of-state.  “He loves her so!” they told me. “We just hope he knows she’s here.”

When I arrived the next day to check on him, I found the beloved granddaughter sitting beside his bed, holding his hand. He appeared unresponsive. The granddaughter moved out of the way to the other side of the bed, leaned down and softly said, “Dada, the nurse is here.”

He opened his eyes, and a look of shocked wonder washed over his face.

“How ARE you?” He asked, grinning with delight.

“I’m fine, Dada; how are you?”

“How ARE you!” he exclaimed. It wasn’t a question anymore. It seemed to be a proclamation of her presence..

The granddaughter laughed gently. “I am fine; the question is – how are YOU?”

“How ARE you!” he said, again and again, practically wriggling with delight.

That man’s beatific smile is seared into my memory. Over the last three days it comes to mind at the oddest times, and leaves me warmed with delight.

As I write this, my husband, his siblings and beloved grandchildren hold vigil hundreds of miles away by the ICU bed of their patriarch. I pray that he will recognize their presence, and that they will feel his spirit smiling on them as well.

Traveling mercies, Pop, and Godspeed.

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