Ground CDU*. The bowels of the hospital. No windows. Underground. “Rooms” separated by curtains with only just enough space for the hospital bed contained. Filled with patients too sick for the normal floor, but not quite sick enough for the intensive care unit. I dreaded my fluorescent lit walks down to our hospital’s former (and quickly outgrown) Emergency Department.
I met Mr. Lewis** in this crowded vault of eternal twilight. He was a gentleman in his early sixties who had been quadriplegic for over a decade and had developed a nasty pneumonia. Upon entering, it was hard to miss the extra woman packed in the room.
Now, a single misidentification of a family member (“Oh sir, and is this your mother?” “No, she’s my wife…”) taught me to allow my patients to introduce friends or family in the room. But this woman must have seen the question on my face because she quickly stood and introduced herself, “I’m Sarah. I’m a friend of Peter’s.”
The doc who had formerly been taking care of Mr. Lewis had mentioned this “friend” that had not left his side. Just as I was thinking “…exactly what kind of ‘friend’?” Sarah again read my too-transparent visage and explained.
She had gone to church with Mr. Lewis for decades, though they’d never been particularly close. When Peter’s accident turned an able and active man into one completely dependent, their pastor stood before the church and shared his need. Sarah heard the call.
For the next decade she spent nearly every day with Mr. Lewis. She ensured everything required–from food to medical care to continuing in leadership of the choir at their church—was provided. She exchanged their acquaintanceship for true servanthood and friendship.
How much medical experience did she have when she felt this call to serve Mr. Lewis? None. She was a computer programmer. When Mr. Lewis was at appointments or sleeping she would google his med list and diagnoses and eventually ended up taking a handful of nursing courses.
John’s gospel records Jesus’s revelation of a new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
I may share another time about Mr. Lewis’s heart for worship (I knew he was ready for discharge when he belted out the entire first verse of “The Old Rugged Cross” without having to pause for breath) or a poignant lesson he taught me about prayer or how Sarah answered a call trusting she would be equipped.
But today I am remembering Mr. Lewis who passed away last April. I am thinking of all those who over their decade long relationship must have recognized in Sarah and Mr. Lewis the love of Christ.
We love because Christ first loved us. And when we do, it becomes our witness to the nations of our identity as Christ followers.
Through this Lenten season, I encourage you to pick one fellow disciple to serve, encourage, or love in a new way once a week. I am praying that as the Lord enables us to lay down our lives in service, others will recognize the love of Christ followers and desire to become fellow servants.
The medical students and residents at Tenwek served and blessed us in so many ways when we were there in September 2015, whether exploring the Kenyan countryside or cooking delicious meals!
*In an ongoing effort to improve patient care, what was once the ground CDU no longer exists
**Specific names are always changed to protect patient privacy