My husband, as I've mentioned before, is a minister. He deals with a lot and generally I don't hear about most of it. Sometimes he'll talk about things, but generally it's part of his day. As you can suspect, he goes to hosptials and visits home-bound persons quite often. He'll tell me he is going to the hospital or "visiting" and I'll just say "OK". I don't go with him on these visits, generally. I mean, the last thing I would want if I was in the hospital is a bunch of people I don't know visiting. It's one thing for the minister to visit. It is quite another for his wife to tag along.
Sometimes, however, if someone is home-bound for a long time and Bryan visits them frequently they'll ask to meet me. After all, he talks about me and they ask about me when he's there.
One such time was just before we left the tiny East Texas town we moved from in May/June. He had been visiting an elderly woman named Helen for two years and she requested he bring me along on his last visit before we moved. So, I went.
We got to the house and her husband walked out with a smile on his face. He greeted us, shooed the dog away, and invited us in. We walked into their modest yet comfortable home nestled in the woods next to a beautiful pond. The living area had large picture windows that permitted you to enjoy the outdoors while in the comfort of the A/C. Across from the living room was a large bedroom with a long hallway to the bathroom. On the other side was the modest kitchen and a small bedroom they used for an office. You could tell they were proud of the modest yet comfortable home they had built together.
We came in and Helen was sitting in her chair. Helen had been battling cancer for 6 years. Yes, six years. She had undergone every cancer treatment, conventional and unconventional, and was still hanging in there, although very frail and weak. She was in pain much of the six years she was battling this thing.
We chatted about the weather, about their children and grandchildren, about our coming arrival, about the church. Then Helen's husband suggested she take me into the bedroom to show me the pictures of her children and grandchildren of which she was so proud.
Helen got into her wheelchair with the help of her husband and I wheeled her in there. She had such pride, but also such sadness as she showed me each picture and gave me the life story of each of them.
When we got up to leave Helen couldn't control herself any longer. She started to cry. She knew that Bryan was moving and that she would never see him again. That the end is near for her. Although her husband is staying strong and has not told her the latest doctors report, that there's nothing left, conventional or unconventional, to do for her cancer, she knew. She couldn't help but know.
When we left Bryan told me the reason her husband suggested I take her to see the pictures in the other room was so he could discuss funeral arrangements without her hearing, and the possibility of Bryan coming back to do the funeral.
On the drive home I couldn't help but think about the stories they told, the life they built together, the warmth they had for others, the children and grandchildren they were proud of, the 52nd anniversary they just celebrated, the love he so strongly still had for his wife after all of these years. And, how they were about to lose eachother. I choked back the tears. I said to Bryan "How do you deal with things like this day after day?" He simply said "I've been doing it a long time". (He was in the mental health/mental retardation field before becoming a minister, which had it's own unique sadnesses).
I will never take for granted the phrase "I'm going visiting" again.