An Unexpected Communion

It happened shortly after a visit last week from Karen, the hospice chaplain and friend who visits Linda regularly. We sat in the sunroom and listened to Linda as she mumbled  incoherently but keeping time with the music playing in the background.

As she always does, Karen ended her visit with a short prayer, calling Linda by name and asking Jesus to continue to be with her.

Shortly thereafter we returned Linda to her bed for her evening meal. As the caregiver, Arlene, slowly and gently placed the pureed food in Linda’s mouth, Linda slowly and clearly spoke these surprising words, “Have. . .  Communion. . . today.”

Arlene called to me to come from the kitchen where I was preparing Linda a dish of her favorite dessert, ice cream. She told me what Linda had just said. I asked if she wanted to have Communion. But, by this time, her thinking had moved on and her speech returned to scrambled words.

I ran to get grape juice and wafer which I keep on hand. By the time I returned, Linda was sound asleep.

Early the following morning before the caregiver arrived, I gave Linda her morning medication. She seemed especially alert, looking intently at me as I smiled and said, “I love you!”

I asked, “Linda, would you like Communion?” No visible response, only calm silence. I retrieved the chalice with grape juice and wafers.

Standing beside her bed, I sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace.” Then I recited Psalm 23 and parts of Romans 8. She remained in uncharacteristic silence, even reverence. I prayed the Words of Institution from memory.

“We are remembering Jesus. He loves us and is with us now,” I said as I dipped the wafer in the cup and placed it on her tongue.

A slight smile and a glimmer of peace appeared on her face. “Thank you, Jesus, for loving us and being with us,” I prayed as I peered through my tear-stained eyes. She quickly drifted into a serene sleep.

It was a holy, transcendent moment of keep connection with God, one another, and “the great cloud of witnesses.”

The experience confirms the mystery of the Sacrament as well as the puzzle of the human mind. I don’t know for sure what triggered Linda’s comment, “have Communion today,” but I suspect it was Karen’s presence and prayer.

I really don’t know if she understood any of my words as I recited Scripture and sang familiar hymns. I can’t comprehend what was happening in her world as I placed on her tongue the signs of Jesus’ self-emptying love.

This I do know: There was more going on than can be intellectually understood by either Linda or me.

Furthermore, the most important ministry is PRESENCE! The chaplain’s attentive presence likely kindled an embedded memory and a connection that cannot be broken by brain disease!

 

 

15 thoughts on “An Unexpected Communion

  1. A beautiful reminder that God knows tge innermost hearts and minds of our loved ones, wherever they are, even when we don’t know. Prayers for you and Linda.

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  2. Thank you, Ken, for sharing this tender expression of God’s presence revealed in the loving attention of Linda’s caregiver, chaplain, and, as always — YOU.c

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  3. Beautiful Presence is the greatest Gift of all! The Holy Spirit is palpable as I read your/Jesus’ life-giving words.

    Thank you for bringing the gift of Christ to me in your deep, rich experiences of love with your family. They are an inspiration and affirmation of what we are all about—being/bringing the Presence to others.

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  4. You are so right: The sacraments are not just for rational understanding–which does not even scratch the surface–but for communing with God and God’s people, for which there is inadequate expression and understanding. This is a beautiful example that illustrates this spiritual truth well. Thank you for sharing the story, and sharing communion with Linda.

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  5. This story reminds me of an experience I had while serving in my first parish. One of the members of my church was dying, and her husband requested that I bring her Communion. When I arrived at the hospital, she was barely conscious. I celebrated the sacrament with her family gathered around, served everyone, and placed the wafer, dipped in grape juice, between her lips. Before long, her eyes opened, she regained consciousness, and recognized me. Soon, I left for other appointments, but later, her husband told me that she had remained alert for some time, and had a long phone conversation with a relative in Asia. She died peacefully some time later. Thanks be to God! Rev. Lucy Porter

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  6. I know this moment— beyond all we know. She nodded a clear “yes” to the small piece of bread, the little sip, and the oil…….

    It is “our own mystery we receive” Augustine said of Christ’s sacramental gift!

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  7. I believe that Linda experienced true communion with Christ as you beautifully shared God’s love.
    This reminds me of a holy moment with my six year old daughter, Jennifer, a few weeks before she died. She had lost her hearing and ability to eat. I took her to Worship in the chapel at Vanderbilt Hospital. She was served communion. After she was served, she said, “Hmm, that was good!” I felt she had truly experienced the divine in that moment; perhaps a foretaste of heaven.

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  8. Rev. Carder, o my goodness, God Bless You! So glad for you and your wife that you had this moment together  with Our Lord. My father was a Methodist minister for 40 years, and a man of strong and honest faith his whole life. I loved him so much! When, because of this awful disease, he had essentially lost his ability to speak, when we could really pay attention our family was able to share some moments like these together with him in understanding beyond words, yet also because of the beauty and meaning of those words, said and sung so many times by him before, and long remembered in all our hearts…Thank you for writing this.–Ruth Ketchum

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