It is a privilege to have the opportunity to offer patients not only physical but also spiritual help. This is particularly the case when I am attending palliative care patients. Many of these dear people will forever be in my memory and my heart.
I visited Señora Maria for a year. I will never forget her warm welcome and gentle ways. She had terminal cancer, and had had to leave her small farm and come to live in the city with her daughter so that she could care for her. Each time we visited her daughter ushered us in with great kindness, making us comfortable, offering us food and drink, and finding soft toys for my one year old to play with. Only then could we turn to the business in hand of finding out how Señora Maria was feeling, and what medicines she needed to control the swelling in her legs and the pain in her abdomen.
Sometimes getting to her house was a challenge. In the rainy season the road became a sea of mud, and I had to leave my car far from the house and wade through the sticky dirt to reach her home. Once inside I was made to sit and eat chicken and chips in recognition of the effort I had made to visit, and in appreciation of the help we offered.
Once she felt more comfortable physically she looked for spiritual support in her difficult circumstances. A local pastor accompanied me on the next visit, and his simple songs and reading of the psalms, accompanied by his willingness to listen and to offer comfort and hope lifted Maria´s spirits. Her daughter asked the pastor to visit again.
As time went on Maria became weaker, and finally bed bound. Her smile never failed her, even when she was too frail to talk much. Our visits became more frequent in order to keep her comfortable and at peace. One evening her daughter phoned asking me to visit the next day as Maria had taken a turn for the worse. When I arrived she was lying in bed with her eyes closed, relaxed and pain free. As I held her hand and told her who I was she whispered, “Sing me a hymn Doctor.” I sang to her, not letting go of her hand, and prayed with her. She was ready to meet her Maker, her Lord. She died later that evening.Tears trickled down my cheeks during that final visit, my last opportunity to accompany that dear, kind, beloved grandmother and mother who had also become my friend. But I was glad she was at peace. I was glad I had had the chance to befriend her and point her to her Saviour. I was glad I had made the effort to wade through the mud. I was glad she was safe in Jesus´ arms and in His loving care. I was glad I had not only helped her with medicines but also shared my faith.