Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Learn Love

Gary is back in the hospital. He had a coughing fit at the nursing home and the pain in his chest became unbearable. They transported him to the emergency room. I arrived shortly after they checked him in. Joe and I sat with him while they ran tests and waited hours in between them for results to come back.

Joe is in charge of the house at the Rehab. Gary picked him up off the street two years ago. For 30 years from age fourteen Joe lived in refrigerators, behind dumpsters, on the street and in the bottom of a bottle. No home was his home. He had the social skills and cynical savvy of a loner street person. "Pastor Gary", or more exactly they would say, Jesus Christ has transformed Joe into a human being.

Joe is fiercely protective of Gary. One morning two weeks ago in the former hospital, Gary didn't get his breakfast tray. Joe tracked down one of the orderlies. The orderly came to the room and said Gary got his breakfast. Gary said, "No, I didn't". The orderly said, "Yeah, you did," and walked out. Joe walked out right behind him, got in front of him and instead of slamming his head into the wall, just said, "I never want to have to come out here again and tell you to not call my Pastor a liar. If he said he got no breakfast, he didn't get you understand?" Gary got his breakfast and the orderly didn't have to go to the emergency room.

Gary lay in the emergency room gurney wracked with pain. Until they knew its source they wouldn't prescribe anything. Joe looked on his Pastor going in and out of conciousness and crying out in agony. His prematurely old eyes that have seen decades of indescribable human suffering in the streets, glistened with helplessness.

"This is probably a new experience for you, isn't it? Its hard to just sit and watch and know there's nothing you can do," I said.


"You probably never thought you'd be taking care of your Pastor like this."


"You know, this is probably how he saw you spiritually when he found you. He took care of you, now you are returning the grace."


As the night wore on, I told the attending physician the neglect and lack of attention to Gary's real symptoms at the former hospital and at the nursing home. They ran the typical emergency room tests and again ruled out a heart attack, and again the source of the crippling pain was a mystery. I convinced him to admit him to the hospital to do more tests. After eight hours of vigil they finally arranged to move him. Joe and I followed him to his room, we talked to the head nurse about his bed sores that no one has treated, how to move him because of his torn shoulder, then we left. It was midnight and it was raining.

In the parking lot Joe asked, "Will you be here in the morning?"

"Yeah, I'll be here by 5:30. I want to be here when the attending doctor makes his rounds to be sure he knows what is going on."

"Cool. I have to make sure the guys get to Church in the morning. Pastor Gary will kick my ass if I don't take them. I'll be here after Church."

"No problem, Joe. I'll tell Pastor Gary you took the men to Church. You guys pray, I'll come sit."


Love does not need a lot of words. Sometimes love just sits in helpless pain and prays. If we are capable of learning to do that, we are capable of salvation.


Philippa said...

I have a lot to learn.

Kyrie Elesion!

God's mercy for Gary.

Anonymous said...

Lord have mercy on Gary.

thegeekywife said...

St Panteleimon, intercede for Gary!

S.P., thanks for posting the updates on Gary.

elizabeth said...

Lord have mercy.

Please keep us posted as you are able.