oon after I became a pastor, while engaged in hospital calling, I discovered something important. Dying people are not interested in small talk. They don’t want to hear about current events, newspaper opinion columns, or your vacation plans. Their minds are on something else; something eternal. They don’t have any time left to waste.
So, we have the joyful privilege to speak about important matters. We ask a few questions and hope for faith-filled responses. Most bedridden, anxious, end-approaching folks appreciate directness. It really is a matter of life and death for them.
I was reminded of this while visiting my father, Melvin Miner Broadbooks, when he was near death. He lived the last six months of his 98 years in a nursing home. Dad was not a wealthy man. The most he ever made in one year was $8,000. Now he was living in half a room and sleeping on a bed he did not own. He rarely left the facility, and so all the clothing he had left were a few pairs of pajamas hanging in the closet. On the wall, attached to a bulletin board, was a picture of the family, a couple of greeting cards, and a bird that he had colored in his activities class. That was home for Dad.
That day, as usual, Dad had on a hat. It kept his bald head warm. To most people, wearing a hat with pajamas would be odd, but not for Dad. The conversation went like this: “Dad, I am so sorry you have to live here for your last days. It just isn’t like home. The bed is hard. The food isn’t great. And most of these people around here are strangers.”
He looked at me with a toothless grin and a gleam in his eye and said, “Don’t worry about me, Bob. Everything is coming my way.”
In five words, Dad had changed the conversation from small talk to eternal oratory.
He had no interest in his present surroundings. His face was fixed on the fresh air of a new place. He couldn’t wait to stand around a throne where he would know everyone’s name, brothers and sisters, in whose veins flow the blood of their shared Savior. Absolutely everything was coming to my Dad. He was experiencing the truth of the songwriter who wrote, “All for Jesus”: “Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside. So enchained my spirit’s vision, looking at the Crucified.”
So, my minister friend, talk to the dying about Jesus and heaven. In moments like that, it is the only talk that matters.
Pleased with the Prospects,