Why blueporch?… part 2

My wife Maryanne works as an RN in Hospice. Hospice is a place of hospitality for the terminally ill. It is a porch too.

I am humbled by how generous she lives in that space. She fits in that space because of who she is and how she sees the world. Much of working in hospice is comforting the dying while helping the families come to terms with death. Maryanne is perfect for the role. Her calm demeanor, compassionate way and insight settle the most distraught members of a family. She describes herself as a mid – wife when asked what she does in Hospice. She sees herself laboring with people as they transition from one life to the next. It is a sacred place, a holy space in the lives of people. She has seen the rich, the powerful and the marginalized come through the doors to death.

While the playing field is leveled in death the readiness to die is not.

We didn’t know her all that long but what we did know of her was real and moving. She had been friends of some families in our spiritual community for years. She knew them in the porch space, in-between space. They had coffee, visited, connected as neighbors. There were times of difficulty for Lyn over the years and neighborly help was necessary and valued. Our friends stepped into that space. Lyn was a sojourner with an eclectic spirituality like most these days. She had a shelf of gods and deities that she pulled off her mantle in times of need.

Because their relationship was in the space of the porch her spirituality could be expressed freely. At times she came in and visited the Jesus community but for the most part existed in porch space relationally. I met Lyn when she came to a dessert night.

I quite liked her honest and self deprecating demeanor. She told me she was surprised that after I would speak at a church gathering I would freely ask others what they had to say. She found that quite unusual but endearing. As I listened to her talk about her spirituality I felt it was real but not complete. It was 6 months after I first met her that she was pronounced with terminal cancer. Maryanne and I had gone to visit Lyn in the hospital several months after the diagnosis. By then she had a neck collar to keep her neck from breaking, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer.

As we stood by her bedside she lay there so gracious, so full of life, so full of Jesus.

After she received her diagnosis she was subsequently wheeled off to the cancer clinic. That day was the day that ‘changed her life’ as she referrers to it. As the double doors of the cancer clinic swung open Lyn recalls how God started welling up inside of her. A joy and peace overcame her, she couldn’t stop smiling. The nurses assumed she didn’t know she had terminal cancer yet. She had never experienced that kind of joy and peace in her life. She then saw Jesus standing there.

He was telling her she was fully loved and not alone. She was undone!

She had never heard those words before (though she longed her whole life to hear them) and had never felt so connected to Jesus, to God. She wanted to live. For many years Lyn struggled with depression and the desire to not live. Now with the declaration of death on her the God of Life encountered her in a way that changed her.

As Maryanne and I visited with Lyn that week I too was overwhelmed by the joy and peace that came out of her. I have not encountered someone so close to death’s door that was contained in the peace of Jesus as she was. Lyn has been reading the bible and sharing her Jesus. Maryanne is around the dying on a regular basis, but she too was undone. As we left Lyn’s room Maryanne had to sit down in the hallway of the hospital to have a personal cry. It was the result of her encounter with Jesus.

She felt like she had been with Jesus in her dying. And that is from someone who is among the dying on a regular basis.

I asked Lyn if she wanted me to share her story with our community. She said in the most gentle and unassuming voice, “if my story will bring hope to anyone, please share it.” I saw Lyn just before Christmas. I prayed for her and read a story to her from a Max Lucado book. That was the last time I saw her. She died in January, 2010. I am thankful for the porch. It is because of the porch, that in-between space, that a number of us could meet Lyn there. It was in the space of the porch, her in-between spirituality, that Jesus met her too.

Who is on your porch?

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on April 30, 2010.

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