Sitting vigil: February 2011

In the still, inky hours between midnight and dawn, my
father lay dying.  Unable to speak or
move, struggling for breath, his vital organs shutting down, he lay there succumbing
to the ravages of a severe stroke and pneumonia.

It is difficult to reconcile this image with the one that is
before me now. I am looking at a framed photo of the two of us taken sometime
before my first trip to Africa in 2006. We are sitting side-by-side, leaning
into each other with smiles of contentment, not knowing what the years to come
would bring each of us. As it turned out, I would venture out making treks
across the continents, while he moved across two state lines. I would witness
suffering beyond suffering in Kenya and Sudan. He would begin that slow decline
that comes with age and debilitating diseases–a decline that brings suffering
of body and soul.

It was our shared suffering that brought us closer. We
journeyed along suffering’s way absorbing her lessons of brokenness, leading us
to the places of  vulnerability and compassion.
In this shared space, we spoke of essential things: Love, Christ, joys,
sorrows, fears and desires.

On that February night when he lay dying, I lay sleeping, almost
a thousand miles away. But he was not alone. Throughout the dark hours of that
winter night, a hospice volunteer was sitting by his side. I think of it as sitting
vigil, standing guard, being present, offering the gift of presence in the most
tangible, concrete way possible.  And it
was this same volunteer who held the phone to my father’s ear so I could speak
to him as he took his last breaths. In this sacred space, I spoke of essential
things: Love, Christ and my father’s imminent journey home. We prayed The Our
Father, The Apostles’ Creed, the Psalms—familiar words of faith that had shaped
us along the way.

I cannot tell you the name of the hospice, nor the name of
the hospice volunteer who so lovingly gave of himself to be present with my
father in that betwixt and between time –that time from life to death to life
again in Christ. But I can tell you this—I am forever grateful. This gratitude,
has gently nudged me over the past few years to the place where I find myself
today. It is a place of stories, passions and dreams.

We all have stories–stories of life, of suffering and of
death. These stories connect us at an essential level. Our shared stories often
move us to a place of compassion and mercy, and the desire to “do something”. Once
such conversation took place over a year ago with a dear friend and colleague
in Kenya, Pastor David ChuChu. Our desire to be present with those in their
suffering, and especially in those last hours of life, has given birth to a
dream to build a hospice house in rural Kenya. I have begun to speak of this
dream in some of the various presentations given on the mercy work in Kenya and
people have shared their stories with me—stories of suffering, dying and the
beauty of hospice in such a vulnerable and intimate time. Many have already
given generously to fund this dream, and for that I am so grateful.

Pastor David Chuchu and Deaconess Pamela, Kenya 2014

I hope you will indulge me as I send out more stories about
those who have journeyed with me on this road of suffering, offering me a
glimpse into their lives and allowing me to be a part of their healing.

And if you are so moved to donate to this hospice house, you
may do so in a couple of ways:

Make out a check to Holy Cross Lutheran Church, earmark it
for Kenyan Hospice and send it to 4701 Grove St. Rocklin, CA 95677

Or make a donation directly to Diakonia Compassionate Ministries noting the donation for the hospice house.

Always Mercy,


via Always Mercy

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