At the bedside of the dying
Last summer, a dear Croatian friend went back to the Lord, after a very painful cancer. At her bedside I met an Austrian woman who often came to see her, prayed with her, and helped her to prepare for the great meeting. I was so impressed with her tactfulness, her know-how by a dying person, and the appropriateness of her words that I asked her for her secret. She told me her story and how the Lord had countered her plans to put her in His service. The testimony of this woman, Elizabeth, is worth knowing. The month of November is the month of All Saints and also the month of the dead who are waiting to come into the Light. Therefore everything that can help us Christianize our vision of death is good to take on!
"Once I was in a packed waiting room of a hospital", Elizabeth told me, "and there was a woman in a wheelchair. I heard the Lord say, 'God and pray with her.' I said, 'No! No! NO! Lord, I am not doing that here. How can I pray with her? It is impossible without people seeing.' I felt ashamed that I couldn't but the voice came again and again, 'Please go pray with her.' So that people wouldn't notice, I crossed the waiting room and pretended to pull something from the pocket of my jacket that was handing behind her. On my way back I stopped at her wheelchair and put my arm around her and asked her what was wrong with her that brought her to the hospital. Then I prayed. Not loud but loud enough so that she could hear. I knew exactly that it was the right thing to do. But you see it all started in a strange way" 25 years ago I had an experience that changed my life."
I was living in Salzburg, Austria. Our parish priest sent me to a sick couple to see if they needed anything and if I could help them somehow. They were Evangelical. So I went to their house, it was Christmas Eve. The gentleman suffered from a stroke and he could not speak anymore. So I talked to them saying, 'I would love to pray with you if it is alright with you.' They thought about it for a moment and then his wife said, 'Well, fi you want you can pray.' So I did and then I promised to come back and see them as soon as possible.
"The next morning, for the first time in my life, I heard an inner voice say, 'Go and see the Davidson family.' I kind of pushed the thought away even though I recognized His voice. I thought to myself, 'it can't be Jesus, it is Christmas, I have to be with my four children today!' However, this voice came three or four more times that morning, 'Go and see Mr. Davidson.' Eventually I decided to go the following day.
When I arrived on the 26th, I learned that Mr. Davidson had died on the 25th. Immediately I kknew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to be there on the 25th and I missed the chance beacause I wasn't obedient. From that time onwards I started hearing Jesus' voice pretty often.
"Sometimes it is terribly embarrassing, but slowly I learned that I can't push it away, I have to obey immediately. When this voice comes, I have to let go of everything else. Otherwise, I miss the occasion for the graces the Lord wants to give to this other person. I have had many sad experiences where I did not obey because I was too shy or embarrassed. I saw the consequences immediately.
"I am now 76 years old and I have been widowed for six years. All of my children are grown up and have left my house so I work in my parish in Salzburg. I mostly work with people who are sick and dying. I pray with them but most of all I take time to listen to them. If I visit someone in the hospital I usually encourage people to receive the Sacrament of the Sick from a Priest. I think it is one of the most wonderful Sacraments we have and I have experienced so many beautiful things with this Sacrament! People immediately feel the peace of God rest on them. Once I took my friend Fanz to the hospital, he was full of cancer all over his body, and I said, 'Fanz, do you want the Sacrament of the Sick?' He said, 'Yes please.' And I went to call the priest. There were about five other people in the room at the time. So before I left the room, one of them said, 'Can I too get the Sacrament of the Sick?' 'Of course!' I said. 'I'll get the priest and you can talk with him. If you are prepared to receive it then he'll give it to you.' The Franciscan priest came shortly after that and at the end four of them received the Sacrament of the Sick. They never received it before just because no one ever told them they could!
"There is something that haunts me that I see while working in this ministry. I see so many people dying in nursing homes who need our love and prayer! The worst is when patients are in their last moments; nurses or even sometimes nuns send them to die in the sterile, lonely hospital where everything is strange to them. Why don't they keep them at home while they are dying? Hold them. Pray with them!"