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2012-02-23 digital edition

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2012-02-23 / Church

THEY SAID IT

(Life Lessons from Hospice Patients)

“I Didn’t Listen”

Sam is in his late forties and has ALS. He spends his days zipping around the nursing home in a motorized chair. Though his body is deteriorating rapidly, he smiles more than usual these days.

As a child, Sam was separated from his siblings and bounced around multiple foster homes. He grew up feeling very alone. Drugs and alcohol entered the picture. His daughter died at age 2, on his watch. His marriage failed. When I first met Sam, he was angry. Very, very angry.

One day I asked him, “Sam, you’re different. What happened?”

He smiled. “God tried to get my attention all through my life. I didn’t listen. He put people in my life. I didn’t listen. He warned me about my behavior. I didn’t listen. Bad things happened. I didn’t listen.”

“Then I got this disease and landed in this chair.” He leaned forward and continued, “Now, He has my undivided attention. I’m listening. And, if it took all that to get me to this point, so be it. I’m one of the most blessed men in the world.”

Wow.

A friend of mine once said, “It’s not so much what happens to us, but how we interpret what happens that makes the difference.” Nobody wants pain and hardship. But we’re going to have it, some of us more than others. If I lose sight of the bigger picture, I’m sunk.

“I didn’t listen.”

Thanks, Sam. I’ve done my share of ‘not listening.’ Hopefully, I’m listening now.

Gary Roe is the Chaplain of Southern Care Hospice and is interim Minister at First Baptist Church in Lexington

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