How can we begin to understand what hope and healing mean in the face of a deadly illness with no known cure? We have many sources of hope and healing in our lives—singing, praying, thinking, communicating, acting, giving, and remembering.
Dr. Richard Cabot tells the story of a young theological student in Clinical Pastoral Education who was encountering for the first time in his life a patient whose illness was so severe that the doctors told the student that this woman had slim chance of survival.
The woman asked the young man to pray for her, and in this first encounter with such a request, the student minister was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and despair. He turned away from the bedside and buried his face in his hands. He fought back the tears and tried to regain control of his emotions. Finally, he got himself together and stood up. Embarrassed and ashamed, he took the woman’s hand, offered a simple blessing and goodbye, and fled from the room.
Much to the surprise of the clinicians, the woman underwent an unexpected recovery. When Dr. Cabot was talking with her later about how she was able to rally and respond so well, she replied:
"I think it all began with that young theological student who was so intense in his prayers for me."
We can never be sure how our companionship and service in the company of those living with serious illness will be an agent of hope and healing. Sometimes the things that we least expect to be helpful will be the things most remembered.