This morning I had a call from a lady asking me to visit her husband who is receiving palliative care in the local hospital. When the lady told me the name of her husband, I remembered I had actually visited this gentleman once before, not long after I arrived here. During that visit, I had left one of my business cards with him, and it was upon discovery of my card that his wife called me today.
He has had a long struggle with cancer, and is rapidly approaching the end of that struggle. In the course of my conversation with his wife, (who sounded quite distressed on the phone), she explained to me that they were "amicably separated". On my last visit, this man told me that he had chosen to live apart from his wife, in supported accommodation, as he wanted her to be free to live her life, and not to be tied to his illness. I remember thinking at the time that this was a rather selfless gesture on his part, and one that not many people would make.
When I visited him today, he asked me about my conversation with his wife, and if she'd mentioned anything about funeral arrangements. I commented that she sounded understandably upset, and he winced, as if even at this advanced stage of his illness, he was still seeking to protect her.
He said to me, "your job must be taxing, having to have these kinds of conversations with people," but I reassured him that I consider it a privilege to be able to travel with people at such significant times in their lives, when they are often hurting and vulnerable.
It was certainly a privilege to share some conversation and prayer with this gentleman, and I hope I get to see him again.