Who will open the door?

People pass through our lives

We knock once. Wait. Knock again.

If you don’t answer the second time, depending on whether you’re typically at home or not when we come by on Wednesday afternoons, we’ll probably leave your supper by your door, with a neighbor, or else mark an X on our list.

Mr. M is always at home. He always answers his door. On the first knock.

But two Wednesdays ago, it took two knocks. And when he did come to the door, he was disheveled. Not his typical neat self with clean dress pants and belt and shirt tucked in. Kay and I both noticed it was a little odd, but didn’t think too much about it. He was still friendly. Always thankful.

Then one Wednesday ago, he didn’t answer the door at all. We even knocked a third time. Still nothing. We set the Styrofoam-packed dinner near his door in a chair and moved on.

Then on Friday a few days later, I read a name just like Mr. M’s in the obituaries.

I’m hoping it’s a coincidence.

But I suspect it’s probably not.

I’ll find out tonight when we return to his apartment building.

I’m not sure I want to know.

The hardest thing about working with older people and/or sick people is that you lose them more frequently. (How do you in health care handle such frequent losses?)

A month earlier, Kay and I noticed Mrs. W’s name was no longer on our list to receive a meal delivery. Did she move? Taking a trip? We always had spent longer than allocated in a hearty conversation or prayer with her.

But when we asked around, we were shocked. She’d died. Suddenly. Her niece said her aunt hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to take a nap. When she later went to check on her, she had already passed.

Who won’t answer the door this afternoon? Whose name will be off the list? It’s only a matter of time for all of us. We know this. But we still don’t like it. And I haven’t gotten used to it.

People pass through our lives quickly.

On the level of humanity, I want everyone to stay here with no more losses or pain.
On the level of eternity, I want everyone to escape into a trouble-free, Jesus-saturated life over there.

So in a few hours, I’ll discover if Mr. M has indeed crossed the chasm or not. I’m hoping he’ll answer our knock.

But if he doesn’t, I’ll look forward to seeing him later on the other side. Where he’ll be whole. Fully visioned. And won’t need our help.

To whomever opens the door next in his old apartment? Welcome. For however long or short our time together may be.

* * *

Has anyone slipped quickly out of your life lately? Please share in the comments.

25 thoughts on “Who will open the door?

  1. Bill (cycleguy)

    As a pastor I face this all too often. Expected. Unexpected. Immediate. Over time. Each time it happens a little piece of me also dies, especially if I have gotten close to that person. But they are usually church people whom I know know Jesus. That means I KNOW i will see them again. There is comfort in that. You are doing a good thing Lisa. Keep it up.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sure you do see this all the time, Bill. And you have to get so much more up closer and personal with it, in helping the families. But what a blessing you must be to them. And yes–knowing that you’ll see them again is a huge asset. I’m so grateful we have that hope. Thanks for your encouragement to me, too.

  2. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Praying for you today, Lisa! I just had two children thrust into my life on Saturday and whisked out yesterday, so the concept of “people passing through our lives quickly” is heavy on my mind, too. At our house the parting wasn’t a result of death, but it nonetheless involves the fragile nature of life. I’ll write about it once my mind quits reeling… I’m glad you were able to share your thoughts here. May God hold you and Mr. M close today–wherever he is.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Susan, that this passing in and out doesn’t have to be through death. Actually, the most common everyday way probably isn’t death, but rather like the situation you’re experiencing. That fleeting coming and going. Thanks for praying for me, and I’m praying for you and your two little friends who came in and out too quickly.

  3. Brenda

    Awe 🙁 ((Hug)) That would be hard. I get attached so easily. What a blessing you must be to these older folks. My prayers for the work you are doing, and for the health of the ones you serve. ((blessings))

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your prayers, Brenda. I guess it’s a good thing when we attach, right? It doesn’t always feel like it when the attachment has to be broken, but in the long haul, the attachments remain. It’s only in the temporary that we feel the loss.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I was going to write one thing…but fate intervened and I can now write a happier story.

    A few weeks ago, a new family moved into the neighborhood. Their two very friendly Pit Bulls escaped one evening when no one was home. They wandered around, and I thought to bring them back…but then they set off in the direction of home. So I didn’t do anything, thinking they would stay.

    They didn’t. The next morning their distraught owner came by, asking if I had seen them. They had not come home, and in the place we live, during high summer, a dog’s hours on the loose are very limited. If the heat doesn’t get them, they’re liable to be shot, as this is open rangeland.

    I thought of their happy faces, wagging tails, and well-cared-for they looked…and as the days past, I thought of what must have happened to them.

    And this morning I saw them again, back in their own yard. Thinner, to be sure, but bright and happy…and, I hope, wiser.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I’m glad to hear this story had a happy ending after all! You remind me of my own neighbors who have brought my dog back after she’s run off. 🙂

  5. Sharon

    Oh Lisa – so heartbreaking. Yes, I lost my dad a year and a half ago. It was sudden. I had been anticipating him passing away sooner than later, as he was so feeble. But the way it happened – a nasty fall, a hospital stay, dying only ten days later – was shocking. I’m glad that he has been released from that sad old bent-over body, and that severely impaired mind. But I still miss him, always will, until I see him again.

    I’m just glad that Mr. M, if he is indeed gone, entered his eternal rest and was greeted by the Savior. That is the hope that softens the blow of grief.

    Might the Lord use His people in the lives of the elderly. For some of them still need to make that eternal decision, before it’s too late. I’m sure your ministry is instrumental in spreading God’s love to the most needy…

    GOD BLESS YOU!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I understand how you feel about relief for your dad, yet still missing him here anyway. I felt that way especially about my mom–her Alzheimer’s was such a hard, hard thing that we were ready to see her released from its grip when she finally was able to go. But even then yes it’s still hard.

      I found out yesterday that it was Mr. M that had passed. 🙁

  6. Barbara H.

    I’ve wondered, too, how people in health care, hospice, elder care, or even foster care handle all the losses. I so agree with these feelings: “On the level of humanity, I want everyone to stay here with no more losses or pain. On the level of eternity, I want everyone to escape into a trouble-free, Jesus-saturated life over there.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I guess the workers have to stay detached in one sense, when they can, but I’m sure they also have to bear a lot of losses in jobs like that. I’m grateful for those that can do it!

  7. floyd

    What a blessing you are to be the one calling upon others. It’s good to feel the love of others. I believe that’s one of the biggest callings for us as Christians… Those folks will be waiting on you when the door is opened on the other side…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Floyd. What I do isn’t much. It blesses me more than it does the residents. Most everyone is super grateful to us for coming by.

  8. Melody

    Just lost a 34 year old niece to her second round with cancer this week. So sad with the work she was doing to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and her 4 year old daughter having very few memories of her mother as she grows up. On the flip side she had a very strong FAITH and looked forward to seeing her Grandmother, Grandfather and Uncle in Heaven if she didn’t beat the cancer. May none of us ever lose sight that this life is a journey until we reach our FINAL destination. May God continue to bless your WORK and the MESSAGE of love you share!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I’m so sorry about the loss of your niece, Melody. Losing anyone is hard, but especially when they’re so young and crucial in the lives of others. Saying a prayer for your family now!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your comment made me wonder this, Dolly: How would we all treat each other if we could see an expiration date for when we were about to die? I’m sure it’s best that rarely know the day….

  9. Sarah Donegan

    I was a hospice volunteer for a few years and just stopped last month. I visited with a sweet lady and her sweet daughter every week for over 2 years, which is definitely not the norm. I developed a friendship with them and it was hard every time things looked bad. I had to quit when I started my job, but maybe that was best. Maybe God knew how hard it would be for me to lose her!
    Let us know how things turn out!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, Sarah. I so admire hospice volunteers. That’s a beautiful thing you did, maintaining that relationship for such a long while. I’m sure you were a huge blessing to the whole family.

      I found out Wednesday afternoon that Mr. M did indeed pass away. 🙁 One person told me that it was a heart attack, and that he was DOA at the hospital. I’m hoping that meant his death was quick with minimal time in pain. Such a sweet man.

  10. Laura Thomas

    Oh Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mr.M. 🙁 I’m sure you were one of the highlights of his week—what a beautiful work you are doing. Life certainly is short, and each day is a gift. Thanks for this poignant reminder that time is precious and investing in the lives of others is priceless. May you continue to shine for Him in this ministry… Blessings to you 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for such sweet words, Laura. Life is definitely much shorter than we realize on a day-to-day basis. I was talking with some moms last night who are in the midst of parenting teenagers. I know it feels to them that it will go on forever, but now that my baby is 20, I see how quickly it all goes by. Everything is just here for a season except for the God who undergirds it all!


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