Paying attention

(Johannes Plenio, via and used under Creative Commons zero)

As I was organizing music for the inter-faith Christian Sunday afternoon service in the chapel of a local physical therapy and rehab center, an older couple walked in. Lou was pushing his wife, Anna, in a wheelchair. They came over to the piano where I was and asked, "Is there a church service this afternoon?"

I stopped what I was doing, went closer to them and responded, "Yes, there is, and you're definitely in the right place. We start in about 45 minutes and you're welcome to stay."

In halting words Anna half-smiled and said, "Honey, remember the time so you can bring me back."

He said, "Okay," and they left.

Later as facility residents and their family members started arriving about 10 minutes in advance, back came Lou with Anna. He pushed her wheelchair close to where I was at the piano. I greeted them and helped them get situated.

"Please forgive our attire," a concerned Anna said to me. Lou was wearing a casual shirt and slacks, but Anna had on a knit top and shorts. She had just come from the therapy department. She continued, "I know that Scripture says we should wear holy attire in God's house, so Lou and I have reflected on preparing our hearts to be in holy attire because what we're wearing is anything but holy."

Another volunteer distributed song sheets and gave copies to Lou and Anna. She thanked the volunteer and said to Lou, "Honey, can I borrow your glasses?"

He took off his glasses and handed them to her.

She said, "After my stroke I just can't read worth a darn, but glasses help a little. I left my glasses in the room since we were at therapy, so it's wonderful that my husband shares his glasses with me. Indeed, we share our glasses. We don't share our teeth."

As the service got underway and following the homily, the chaplain invited anyone present to share insights.

Anna shared, "I'm so glad for the gift of life. This stroke isn't what I had hoped for in life, but it came, so I'm going to use it to give glory to God. Thank you, God, for paying attention to me and letting me serve you in this way. In turn I will do my best to pay more attention to you."

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]

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