2012-10-18 / Church


(Life Lessons from Hospice Patients)

If You’re Ever Visiting Some Old Person

The retirement community was a maze. The receptionist laughed when I asked for directions. “Just go that way, and good luck,” she said. On the way to the elevator, I passed two other visitors looking confused. Residents joked that a dementia patient had designed the place.

In the elevator, I reviewed Mr. Fleming’s information: ninety-three years old, end-stage cancer, living with his wife of seventy-two years. I exited on the third floor to find a gentleman in a scooter with one of those friendly ask-me faces.

“Looking for the Flemings?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded, puzzled.

“Down the hall, last door on the left,” he said, pointing the way.

I knocked. A lady opened the door.

“Mrs. Fleming? I’m here to see your husband.”

“He’s behind you,” she said, smiling.

I turned around. There he sat, in his scooter, giggling.

“Saw you downstairs, wandering.” he said. “Sometimes we just sit up here and watch people wander for hours. And it’s Frank. Mr. Fleming was my grandfather.”

He didn’t look a day over seventy. They both conversed with an ease that made me feel right at home. We laughed a lot. I even forgot I was on a hospice visit.

The Flemings reminded me of an important fact: hospitality is about the guest, not the host. It’s about welcoming and connecting. That means anyone, anytime, can offer it.

As I stood up to go, Frank said, “If you’re ever here visiting some old person, feel free to drop in.”

Ha. You can count on it.

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

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