I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Roger Butts’s reflection “Thank you, God, for Everything” excerpted from his book, Seeds of Devotion: Weekly Contemplations on Faith.
Give us this day our daily bread. Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew 6:11
It was a Friday night, just after dinner. I was at the hospital. My work was slowing down—most people don’t need to see a hospital chaplain after 7 p.m. unless there is a really powerful reason.
Then my pager went off. A nurse on the fourth floor said to me, “Roger, there is a patient up here, an older woman. She is going to hospice on Saturday, but tonight she is terribly confused and I think she could use a visit.”
“Of course. I’ll be right there.”
I looked at my phone to check the time: in two hours I’d be off. Truth be told, I was ready for the weekend.
As I was about to enter the room, the nurse told me, “She’s been saying the Lord’s Prayer, over and over.”
I gathered myself outside the room, and said a silent little prayer to center myself. I walked in.
She was definitely an old woman, frail and weak, ready to give in to that great mystery. As a hospital chaplain I’ve walked into rooms like this many times. The feeling is palpable, a deep, abiding quiet. Often there is a profound peace, in this case made even greater because the patient was entirely alone, a rarity in such cases. Often, I enter a room full of family and friends, buzzing around, trying to fill the last few moments with memories turned to chatter. This was different.
As I approached, I noticed that the nurse was right. The woman was saying the Lord’s Prayer. I held her hand. Eventually I joined her in reciting it. Her voice was weak so I whispered alongside her. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses.
As we approached the end of the Lord’s Prayer, she noticed my presence. She looked at me through cloudy, peace-filled eyes and smiled gently. “I can’t seem to remember the ending,” she said. “But, oh well. Thank you, God, for everything.”
And with that, she entered a gentle sleep. After a while of holding her hand I simply walked out of the room with a new ending for a prayer that I love.
First, walk gently.
You’re entering into the great mystery.
Sorrow, regret, anger, grief, relief.
You never know what you’ll find.
You may as well walk gently into that room,
which will likely be dark and quiet.
Second, talk gently.
The dead dream.
And the survivors do too.
They are in a fog,
or out to sea,
or in the deep woods.
Pick your image.
But talk gently, that mystery
will one day be you and yours.
Third, act gently.
will invite whatever needs to happen
If at all possible,
make it so the wife/husband/
Hardly knows you are there.
Listen with your eyes
and your ears
and mostly your heart.
The stories will come.
Be there to hear them.
Stories remind the wife
that she still is alive
And is alone and is not alone
all at once.
Be the Spirit
or the Buddha
Pick your guide and be that person.
Mary. Dorothy Day.
It matters not.
Of course, you are the best option.
So be you, in all of your quirky,
unexpected, beautiful, flawed,
How have you accompanied the frail, the weak, the very vulnerable? What did you do? What part of you emerged that was a surprise?
How has another accompanied you in a difficult time? What do you remember and what seemed to help?
Who are your guides and what do they teach you?
Roger Butts is a hospital chaplain in Colorado and the author of Seeds of Devotion: Weekly Contemplations on Faith (GraceLight Press, 2021) Visit him online at ContemplativeLight.org and LiberalChristian.Medium.Com