Faith Matters

Hopes unseen and unspoken

Here he was: prostrate, limp, a huge tube going down his windpipe.

One of the most challenging conversations ever. I said, “You fancy a coffee?” She said, “You bet.”

Truth was, we’d never really spoken before. She’d had her first child baptized. One of our members had berated her for wearing an off-the-shoulder dress for the occasion. I recall being unsure what to say. Take no notice, he’s—no, all the dismissive words I used to use I’ve now erased from my pastor’s vocabulary. Actually you look fabulous—uh, no. I settled for, “I hope that doesn’t spoil your special day.” Her husband couldn’t be friendlier—no inclination to talk about himself, so I never got much out of him, either. But there’s not a pastor alive who doesn’t see a couple in their early thirties with a child and think Here’s the future, let’s not miss this moment.

But now here he was. Prostrate, limp, a huge rubber tube going down his windpipe. Hemorrhage, stroke—wisps of words that make you tremble. A side room in the kind of hospital that’s a temple of technology, the kind that makes a pastor, with no gadgets or expertise or ability to read buzzing monitors, feel foolish and fumbling. Really I was eager to talk to his wife alone, to find out what was really going on. So the two of us had coffee.