August 22, 2015

A Poignant Summer Memorial by Alan Anderson

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. (Psalm 71:9 NIV)

Last month I wrote what I hope was a rather humorous post about my battle with summer heat. That battle continues by the way! This month I turn a corner and go from humour to a poignant account of people I have come alongside through the calling God has given me.

This blog post is partially composed of a snippet of a writing project I am working on. I present it here as a memorial and tribute to those I have the privilege of learning from in the end of life context I work in. I find real joy in my profession as a spiritual care practitioner in a healthcare setting.

For the most part the people I come alongside are frail elderly people and in need of constant care of one kind or another. They experience situations of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual vulnerability on a daily basis. Staff and those of us in leadership positions love them. We grieve for them and miss them when they pass away.

Here is my memorial and tribute to the people I have the privilege of gleaning lessons from and are never far from my writing. In this account taken from a real life situation I am trying to capture the essence of the nature of my calling. They may be frail elderly people and they are also my teachers! They inspire me as a writer I seek to honour them in keeping with God’s Word.

I entered the room minutes after the old gentleman breathed his last. The room felt so still. His wife stood by his bed and simply stated, "he died just a few minutes ago". She then said in a quiet voice, "He's at peace now!"

It was such a tender and sacred moment. She held something tightly in her hands and I saw it was his Bible. She said that his Bible was to go in his coffin with him along with his favorite stuffed animal, a teddy bear. She said he would like that!

This lady now a new widow seemed almost emotionless as she left the room. She looked so fragile as if at any second she would break. I helped her carry some of his belongings and personal effects down the hallway. A taxi was waiting outside. The driver greeted her with a smile and "how are you today?" She got into the cab without saying a word and waved to me as the taxi took her away.

She was going home to make necessary arrangements. Family had to be called. Meetings with the funeral director would be in her very near future. I remember what was so important to her as she readied to say goodbye to her husband. She wanted to make sure that when he was placed in his casket he wouldn't be alone. His Bible and his teddy bear would be with him!


  1. Poignant indeed, Alan. In the spring of 2014 both my parents died, 10 days apart. They'd been divorced 40 years. The timing seemed so strange. But as you've described it, with the final breaths, one lifetime ended. Now a new life began, devoid of a person who'd filled so much of our thoughts and time. Societal demands took precedence, but the question of 'What now?' couldn't be answered yet. You've captured this transition well, and tenderly. Your stories will matter to many.

  2. blessings on you Alan as you continue this calling

  3. Thanks, Alan. Today my husband and I attended the funeral of a good friend, Tony, also elderly, but not much older than my hubby. Two of our adult children attended with us to comfort us in our loss and show their respect to Tony and his family.

    You write a poignant, but loving story that gently reminds each of us that we are mortal beings, who through Christ's love will become immortal when we move on to eternity. Still there is this parting when one of a couple, or one among friends, goes first. We send that person off with prayers of love and maybe something that is important to the departed--like a Bible or a teddy bear. Well told, Alan. You are working on a beautiful project. Be blessed.

  4. I appreciate the opportunity to write here. I also sincerely give thanks to God for you as my writing companions. Thank you for the personal reflections and encouragement as I in turn reflect on my teachers.

  5. Alan, What a lovely tribute and a touching post. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.


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