Another’s Eyes

Book-and-reading-glasses-007We can never experience what another touches, hears, smells, tastes or sees.

I’ve been with friends that ordered a favorite dish at a restaurant and asked me to sample it.

“Delicious, right?” my table companion gushed.

Not really, I think after a nibble. If I’m polite, I’ll mumble thanks for the darn (not) fine cuisine. My taste buds are different than yours; yours different than mine. It’s the same with all of our senses. Variety, don’t they say, is the spice of life.

Or can we experience another’s perspective?

One of our hospice chaplains shared about her patient. The patient explained that he put on his reading glasses first thing in the morning to read the Bible. He’d done this when life was normal, and one day happily blended into another. And he continued his daily readings even as his days became numbered because of illness. “How I love God’s word,” the patient had exclaimed. “Every single day, when I explore the scripture, I find something new, something I can learn about.”

The chaplain, so she said, smiled. And then she—the professional religious “authority,” the paid spiritual guide and mentor for patients of all faiths—honestly replied, “I wish I could be like you. I wish I had your enthusiasm for reading scripture.”

The patient nodded, and then quietly said, “I’ll keep you in my prayers. I’ll pray for your reading and enjoying the scripture.”

“Thank you.” The chaplain meant it. Our hospice staff visits patients to help them, whether with a bath, medication or spirituality. But most of the time, all hospice staff will admit they learn far more about what really matters from their patients than they ever “teach” to the one who is ill.

Not long after, the chaplain’s enthusiastic patient died. The chaplain arrived, there to support the family. Since the patient had been living in a skilled nursing facility, she also provided support for the staff that had cared for him. Everyone had liked him. Everyone had appreciated his kindness for others, his quiet faith and optimism. One or two family members remained, collecting his few belongings, and were preparing to leave. The chaplain noticed one item had been left on the table by the patient’s bed . . . his reading glasses. They were just inexpensive eyewear, the kind you purchase for a few bucks at a pharmacy.

“Would it be okay if I had his glasses?” the chaplain asked.

The family immediately gave permission. Of what use were they now? The chaplain scooped them up and briefly tried them on. Surprisingly, they were a good fit and the frame was highlighted with a favorite color. And, if only symbolically, the glasses seemed an answer to a patient’s prayer.

As the chaplain finished her story, she told us that from now on, when she studied her Bible and prayed about the words on the page, she’d use his glasses. She’d try to see through his lively, lovely, enthusiastic eyes as she greeted each day with all of its wondrous possibilities.

(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

Image from here.

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