The Quest To Find My Teacher

By Jim Mitchell • June 16, 2014

“The sick and dying are your teachers.” What a strange comment from Chaplain McLaughlin to say at our monthly hospital team meeting. My mind chewed on this, but I just couldn’t digest it. Now Chaplain hadn’t been one to say anything off the cuff. Her true purpose at meetings was to guide us volunteers closer to spiritual communion and away from being earth bound. This comment called for a movement on my part to understand how this could be. I decided to use Brandel Manor, a skilled nursing facility, to try and find a Teacher or Teachers.

Many an evening was spent going from room to room with my wife Ruth, and my comprehension of what it was like to be in a nursing home was greatly expanded. The more I visited, the more wonderfully complex each resident became. But still, no Teacher. About three months passed since this project began. Then my kind God intervened.

There was a male resident who had an oxygen mask on and was sweating profusely. When I entered the room, he pulled off the mask, “It’s hard to be holy when you can’t catch your breath.” At last my Teacher. I was overjoyed to find this frail, little man. He taught me persistence in suffering, and holding firm to faith.

He seemed to know he had the responsibility to open the veil of compassion and awareness for me. There were many conversations between us. His eyes spoke volumes. This was the key I needed. All the residents now became my Teachers. Was God giving me the university education I never had? Who knows? The man left our care, eventually going home to die. All that’s left for me to do is bid my great friend farewell:

To my dearest Teacher:

Just to be in your passing presence has been more than an honor. All could see that the purpose of your heart was to announce the coming of His Majesty. You could have waved the white flag, but you didn’t. You taught us well until the invisible world overtook the flesh. Godspeed as you enter into a richly deserved homecoming. I’ll be along shortly.

James Mitchell

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