I got up bright and early on this dull and dreary Monday morning so that I could take clean laundry to Grampie before he was dressed in some odd mixture of pajama shirt, hospital gown and too-short, borrowed sweatpants. Somehow with the visit of last week, we forgot all about the ordinary things like making sure he had enough clean clothes. When Thyrza lived here, she was adamant that WE do his laundry because she's freakishly worried about germs every moment. In fact, she carries a bottle of hydrogen peroxide around in her walker, and left a gallon jug of it when she moved across the country. And I was dismayed to discover that among the things they were leaving us at the end of their week's visit was yet another large brown bottle of the stuff. If you ever need any, come on over--we have enough for the neighborhood, the city, the whole state, I think! Once she left, we thought about having the facility do Grampie's laundry because, after all, he is paying an arm, a leg, a few organs and most of his life's blood every month to live there. You can't believe how expensive it is. How ridiculously expensive it is to get old and lose your mind, your dignity, your everything. But apparently among the things you can also lose in such places is your laundry--even if you have every single piece of clothing you own marked with your name and you are the tallest person who has ever lived there by at least 4 inches. I walked in one day and there was someone wearing one of Grampie's cardigan sweaters--one that Beve's mom knit for him twenty+ years ago. That red sweater even has "Hand-knit by Barbara Wiley" on a tag inside the collar, but there was a short (er), chubby man wearing it, the sleeves hanging off the ends of his arms. I made a nurse check it for the tag, and take it right off of him. I don't have the faintest idea how it got from Grampie to this man--Grampie can't even dress himself these days.
All that to say, we do his laundry. No matter how much it costs to live there, it's important that he not lose his clothes in the process of losing mind. Doing his laundry, and seeing to it that his shaver is clean, and combing his hair before we go out (just the way he would have done it if he still cared), and making sure his pants are zipped (they very often aren't these days) when we leave his room--these are just some of the small things we do as ministry to Grampie.
And I was in a hurry to get home because Everett was supposed to work today but he never showed up. This, too, is part of what we get when we signed on for this gig with this man. He's probably on a bender somewhere in this city and has lost track of the day. It's the reason he lost his life to begin with. And, as Beve, our friends and I were saying, if we look at this simply as a employer/employee relationship we'd be laying down the law quickly. Wouldn't we? "You have to be responsible," we'd tell him. "You have to..." and he wouldn't be able to do it any more than he's been able to for the last decade or more. It seems to me that there is a different way, a Kingdom way of ministering to him. Giving him water and cherry colas, fixing him lunch (he told me the other day that he was only going to charge us for five rather than six hours because I'd fed him, and I said, "That sandwich did not cost 10$ to make!): these are ways to minister to him. AND...not counting his sins against him. Maybe there are limits. I don't know. At the moment I don't think so. I think that the most important thing is to be in it with him, to show him what grace and mercy look like--no matter what he does. Some of you will say I'm being naive. Perhaps just plain stupid. I don't know. I think I'm looking at this--at him--with the eyes of the Spirit within me. I trust that. And we'll keep praying for him, praying for how to do this. And press on.
And while I'm home today, Beve drove a buddy down to Seattle for his weekly chemo treatment. It's been hard going of late--in more ways than I could describe here. When Beve checked in with me a couple of hours ago, he said he'd offered to let his friend stay with us for a while, if that was okay with me. Probably a good idea, I told him, knowing how hard it's been. To have someone in the house with him so he can simply sleep and not have to worry about caring for his own meals, etc. This is a practical ministry we can do.
Ministry in three places. Three practical ways (which is Beve's favorite kind of ministry ANY day of the week!).
I think if you pay attention, you can probably identify ministries of your week as well. I'm not talking about things you get paid to do (though you might), but of how you approach your tasks and responsibilities. That's really it, isn't it? What do you do that you KNOW is ministry--Kingdom-come ministry? And when I really think about it, it hits me that the key isn't the golden rule of Matthew 6: 12 ("So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you...") but the lesson of the sheep and goats of Matthew 25: 40 ("Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Whoever He puts before us, we minister also minister to Him in serving them.