I was preparing for our church services at an area convalescent center this morning and I began to think about Jim.
Jim was there when we first started doing the services about six years ago. He was in a wheelchair after a stroke, but only his strength was diminished. His mind was as sharp as a tack and the twinkle in his eye and the light in his spirit were as bright as the noon day sun.
Jim taught me an incredible lesson. Here he was, almost a hundred years old, in a wheelchair, in a nursing home and yet he would say, "Yesterday was the best day of my life!" And he would absolutely mean it! He had a love and zest for life that was not abated because he was in a nursing home. He taught me that the love and wonder of life was not what was around me, but what was inside of me.
Often he would join us when we would sing, "In the Garden". You could tell by the timbre of his voice that at one time he had a beautiful tenor voice. On the last note, he would always ring out a loud final sliding note. It was a perfect touch to our songs together. To this day, when we sing that song, I almost expect to hear that sliding tenor at the end.
This morning I thought too of Bonnie. Bonnie was born with cerebral palsy. By the time we met her, her body was twisted and bent over so that she couldn't even see your face. She could barely speak. One day she surprised me by putting an index card in my hand. On the card was some shaky but clear writing. It simply said "Today is Bob's birthday."
You see, her brother Bob was always there, too. His wife had suffered a serious stroke and was a resident there. Bob came to take care of her everyday. Bonnie wanted to make sure we knew it was Bob's birthday, so we could sing Happy Birthday to him. Bonnie was one sharp cookie -- it was up to you if you wanted to spend the time to find that out. I carry that card in my Bible as a reminder to never underestimate someone's ability.
This morning I thought of Pat also. Pat was Bob's wife. Her stroke was so severe she could no longer walk or talk. Each Sunday Bob brought her to church and the only way she could communicate was to make motions with her one good hand, but there was a light in her eyes that showed she was listening and praying and caring for everyone in that chapel. Her body looked broken, but her heart was as whole as it had ever been.
Jim and Bonnie and Pat have all gone to be with the Lord, but our chapel is full of other "Jims" and "Bonnies" and "Pats". Week after week, year after year, we go to this chapel to minister and instead, we are the ones being ministered to. We are the ones being taught the lessons, by these dear friends who have spent their lives serving their families, serving their country and serving their Lord. I continue to learn from them each week and be blessed by their joy, their enthusiasm and their strength.