In the last days, God,
says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…your young women will see
visions, your old crones will dream dreams.– Acts (revised)
chaplain didn’t like “cold calls.”A
cold call meant going door to door, introducing herself and attempting to
strike up a conversation with one sick stranger after another.In the trade, these were referred to as “initial
visits.”On some such visits, folks
obviously did not feel well enough to chat, but others appreciated the
diversion.Only rarely did someone
exclaim, “Oh wonderful, a chaplain.I’ve
been wanting to talk theology with a clergyperson for days.”
experienced one long string of uneventful initial visits, none of which
included deep reflection on the meaning of life, the resurrection, or forgiveness
of sins.Mostly it was, “How do you
do?I checked in yesterday and hope to
be discharged tomorrow.Thank you for
As the day was
drawing to a close, Lydia
dropped in on a new patient, and found a dying activist.The woman knew she would soon be dead, and
she wanted very much to tell her life story to someone, even a chaplain. Lydia
was transfixed by the woman, whose commitment to re-molding the world seemed as
strong now as it must have been in her youth.This woman had labored for civil rights BEFORE the 1960s.She marched against the Vietnam War along
with her son who had just returned from that war.As an older woman, she worked for the Equal
Rights Amendment and hoped that her granddaughters would understand the
importance of keeping up the fight.Now,
it was the Grey Panthers and lobbying with the American Association of Retired
Persons. She never let up.But she was
very old and her systems were failing.
was exhausted just listening to the woman, but she didn’t want her to stop
telling her story.The patient reminded
her of her friend back in the Midwest who had died that
summer.She reminded her of several old
friends, all gone now.The chaplain
stayed late just to hear the end of the woman’s tale.It had been a good “cold call.” The patient
seemed content.Now the chaplain must go.
On the drive home,
on her talk with the activist. She remembered her own past, envisioned what
could have been, or might yet still be. True, Lydia
had been a minor activist, but her perspective on life had changed over the
years.Her world was much smaller
today.She was less likely to contribute
time and money to worthy efforts.
“Because my time
is almost sacred and my money is already spoken for,” she would rationalize.
So it would take a pretty big issue – a
Really Big Wrong – to get this chaplain out on a picket line again, the
spiritual Presence commented, sitting in the passenger seat.
“Even then, I’d
rather stay home,” she answered with a glance.
had to admit the magic of life had faded.Did becoming a crone really mean that fun and excitement had to be
shelved? She had once lived a bit on the edge, believing there were plenty of
tomorrows to recuperate if something went wrong.Work at the hospital had taught her, however,
that life was fragile and tomorrows in short supply.
“Perhaps, when I’ve
fulfilled my current responsibilities, I can get involved again,” she
sighed.“Tonight, I have to pay my
bills, argue with the kids, and clean up after the dogs.”
And that’s pretty
much how it went. She fixed one daughter’s computer, took the other clothes
shopping. There was school work to review and laundry to fold.Even the dogs required a early evening visit
to the vet for ear infections and nail trimming.
On returning home, Lydia received a
call from her son who reported that his friends at a local bar had jumped him
the previous night, taken away his keys, wrestled him to the ground, and
wouldn’t let him ride his motorcycle.
“Oh my,” Lydia
“Yeah, the bartender drove me home
in his car and the doorman followed riding my bike.I went over there (the bar) just now to thank
them for taking care of me.Wow. I was
got some good friends,” the mother answered. “Interesting man. Interesting answer
to prayer,” she sighed, as she hung up the telephone.
You asked to keep him safe, the Presence
“If only you could
keep everyone’s sons safe,” she answered. “But thanks. I really mean it.Thanks.”
When she went to
bed that night, Lydia
prayed for her family but also for the dying activist she’d met that afternoon.Was the prayer for the woman at the hospital,
or for herself?
No doubt Lydia’s
life was consumed by her chaplaincy and her family.She was trapped eight to ten hours a day inside
the hospital.Her isolation from the
community was becoming intolerable. At home, she was equally trapped, rushing
about, living through the lives of her children, with no outside life of her
attending seminary, Lydia
had been a labor organizer and had been active politically, a woman involved
with issues, causes, and people.Some of
the people were even healthy and expected to live for years.Often they talked about current events and
social policy.They attended lectures
and luncheons and labor rallies.Lydia’s
hospital schedule and on-call responsibilities did not allow for much of that
now.She was lonely and frustrated.
“I have but one
earthly life to live,” she said to the Presence.“Am I making the most of it?Am I meeting my responsibilities? Am I making
a difference?Am I learning something
here that I can make better use of elsewhere?Is there something more I should be doing for myself?”
We’ll have to give it some thought, came
That night Lydia
experienced an intense “secret rooms in the house” dream. She had dreamed variations on this theme before.
The design of the house was different, for instance, sometimes featuring a
modern, stark white, wall-less structure; sometimes a dark Victorian mansion;
or even an old, dilapidated frame house, 1950s vintage. There were always
dozens of rooms in the house never before explored.Dusty and full of cobwebs, they only needed
major cleaning and re-decorating to be marvelous. Lydia
would begin the Sisyphean task, finish one room, and watch the webs reclaim
that room as she moved on to the next.
nighttime drama was different.Lydia
didn’t move from room to room as she usually did.Instead, she stood inside a dark, old castle
peering out a window.Beyond the glass,
gambled medieval animals with wings: magic
cows, magic hogs. Ravens.
Thou hast to escape the tower if thou wisheth
to experience the magic, came a Voice.
turned from the window, a staircase appeared. She descended the cold stones to
a lower level, where the form of a blacksmith stood against the red glow of his
forge. The man looked up, nodded, and clanged his hammer against the white hot
metal held between his tongs. Lydia
stared, letting the sound, the smells, and the heat envelop her. The blacksmith
hesitated, then jabbed the tongs into the darkness.
Moving in the
direction the man had gestured, Lydia
uncovered another hidden staircase, this one leading to a labyrinth of subterranean
rooms.Each character from her daytime
family and professional drama had a private room in this ancient, underground structure,
each with its own candle, dusty desk, and rickety typewriter.
“What are they
They’re writing their own scripts, the
Voice explained.You have but a minor role in each of their dramas.There is more life to live, Lydia, but it is up to you to write your own
play, and make yourself the major character.
Get your life back! said the Presence
sitting on the side of her bed.