The recent death of a former church member gives me a new opportunity to reflect. Experience continues teaching me that love heals. The person I have in mind was a Down’s Syndrome person. He lived to a ripe old age. I am astonished by this fact. Why? I remember the “special scout” from our troop when I was a teenager. His name was David. He died when he was 30 years old. David died of pneumonia. He lived in a facility that neglected him. When he was no longer able to go to work, he was taken to the hospital where he died thee same day. There was no one in his family capable of caring for him. David’s death is too typical.
Dying With Love
There are over 7 billion people in this world. Many die because no one cares about them. Others die with someone caring about them. A fact of life is that life ends. there is nothing that can be done about that. But how we live in community determines our lifespan more often than we think. Another facility for aged and infirm people I visited was small but fantastic in the way the residence looked after each other. One man told me, “When I got here I couldn’t walk.” He told me this after getting up to fetch something for one man who was not able to get it himself. I was impressed. “I was told I would never walk again so I was brought here.” I wondered was this man healed or misdiagnosed?
This happened over thirty years ago. The senior minister I served with explained to me that often the diagnosis is correct. But, the care a person receives will sometimes cause a change doctors cannot predict. Another person from our church was in another nursing home, “I wish her family spent more time with her. She could probably get better if they did.” He remarked. I do not doubt that her family loved her and wished she was better. But we do not know how to love if we believe fail to acknowledge that love heals.
Love Heals When We Act Like It
Love does not cure. When an illness is cured, it is done with medicine and care. However, the care may simply be professional in nature. Love heals when the patients know other people care for them. If the Ten Commandments were divided between the two greatest commandments, we see the first three commandments concern loving God. The last six commands are about loving the neighbor. The fourth commandment serves as a bridge between the two sections.
The fifth commandment is interesting. “Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) These two version of this commandment both contain the “promise” St. Paul talks about in Ephesians. The Bible links well-being with honor. Aging parents are to be honored from generation to generation. Loving care is a part of the “honor” as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 15. If this love and honor is offered for the parents, what implications are there for all other people.
Wholeness And Grace
Health is about the wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Health is undeserved. It is like any other grace. We can do many things to take care of ourselves in body, mind, and spirit and should. But there is no guarantee of health in all three parts of the human being. Parents are not guaranteed a long life. But a short miserable one comes about when no one cares for weaker people. A friend who works as a hospice chaplain argues the church should be involved again in healthcare. Personally, I think healthcare as a service in the economic sphere has progressed beyond that. Anything the church does would be, pardon the pun, a band-aid. But she is on to something about what the church can teach and advocate for healthcare.
The figures that talk about the average lifespan of a person reflect the amounts of care people receive. They also tell how humans regard well-being in mind and spirit. If the Center for Disease Control does a study into gun violence, the conclusions that can be drawn will be in these areas of human life. The church should be involved in promoting wholeness and grace. I recommend the following slogan, “Love Heals.”