This reflection comes to us from Andreas Thiel.

Two afternoons every week, I take a short drive to our local Long Term Care facility. On these occasions, I put my day-to-day parish responsibilities aside, for the purpose of serving as Chaplain to this community of (mostly) senior citizens. Now into my fourth month on the job, I have learned to accept the sights and sounds of this place, and am slowly beginning to understand how I might serve a community which has a frustrating way of changing in character and composition, with the inevitable arrival or departure of residents. I am learning; I am growing in understanding. As it happens, however, I am still struck speechless by those seemingly random encounters which remind me of the dimensions of life and of human interaction that transcend the ordinary.

Such as the day I spoke with Rebecca.

Rebecca had recently moved from one unit to another. She and I had met a few months ago, but I had every reason to believe that she remembered nothing of our first meeting. Physically frail, she caught sight of me—and I of her—as she slowly wheeled herself around a corner. Across the distance of about twenty feet, I called out her name, and waved. Her face brightened with a smile (of recognition?). I approached her, crouched down beside her, and re-introduced myself. Her vagueness didn’t trouble me; I’ve seen it far too often in my other visits with residents. Instead, I began the process of listening. I listened as Rebecca spoke, as she began to navigate a mental circle around having lost her way. “I’m lost,” she said, shaking her head sadly, wondering how on earth she’d ever find her way back. And so, this one-sided conversation continued.

Each time she seemed to pick up a new thought, the idea of being lost returned, clouding her expression. It was into this cloud that I found the courage to speak. “Rebecca, you’ve just reminded me of the words of a very well-known song.” She remained silent, and I knew she was waiting for me to continue. “There’s a song that talks about being lost: ‘I once was lost, but now am found.’” And with that, our little conference—she in her chair, and I crouched beside her—seemed to shift to a slightly slower pace. She raised her hand ever so tentatively and brought it to rest on my cheek, with a tenderness that I could not have imagined or predicted. It was as if she had just been given a gift so precious, so meaningful, so full of beauty. She did not speak. Could it be that this gesture was the only thing that could come anywhere close to expressing her gratitude? After several moments, I said, “Rebecca, I like those words; they remind me that whenever I feel lost, God knows where I am. God has found me.”

Silence.

I will never know how that message was perceived within her. I will never know if what I told her gave her any lasting sense of peace or security. I will never know if she had the capacity of recalling that special encounter throughout the remaining hours of that particular day. But I do know—without a doubt—that this moment was God’s gift to us both. I, the Chaplain, was made aware once again of the timeless truth of the human condition, and was simultaneously given the opportunity to respond to that truth with a higher and more glorious truth, by declaring a word of grace. And she, the long-term care resident, was drawn into an encounter which momentarily took her to another place…another space. Rebecca and I may need to repeat this scenario. She may once again need to hear me assure her of her being found. Then again, so might I.