Companions in illness

Daily Reading for March 5 • William W. Mayo, 1911, and Charles Menninger, 1953, and Their Sons, Pioneers in Medicine (transferred)

Years ago as a seminarian I had the happy experience of being mentored by the Rev. Charles Meyer at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, Texas. Chuck was something of an iconoclast. He insisted that we as a society, and as a people of faith, needed to explicitly acknowledge that we were mortal and that dying would happen to all of us. He did not have much patience with the seminarians who distanced themselves from patients in the hospital, essentially saying, “A deadly thing has fastened on him” (Psalm 41:8). Chuck taught with humor and story.

He also taught by example and deed as much as by speech. He often said, “Never bury someone until they are dead.” Sometimes when we are living with illness, we will deal with friends and family who inadvertently begin to treat us as if we were not fully alive. Even when we are in hospice care, we are still not dead. Even when a disease has claimed mobility and mental faculty, we have a sacred personhood in Christ.

Notice the persons who help you remember that you are alive. Notice the friends and acquaintances, caregivers and doctors whose engagement with you offers companionship along the way of illness. Give thanks for them and remember to thank them for the gift of receiving your life, however marked by illness it may be—receiving your life as life, singular, sacred, and true.

From Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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