Richard and Elizabeth

“Good afternoon, Richard, my name is Greg,” I say in greeting to the gentleman in Room 901.  “I’m a chaplain here.  I’m making rounds and offering company, conversation, prayer to anyone …”

“HE CAN’T HEAR YOU,” the woman seated at his feet shouts.  “You’ll have to stand closer.”

I walk over to the right side of the bed, lean over gently, and repeat my introduction in a clear, strong voice.

His face lights up with a smile.  “That’s so nice,” he replies.  “I’m a Christian—an Episcopalian—and I love prayer.  I could use some prayer today.”

I glance in the direction of the woman, and he lights up again.  “That’s Elizabeth, my wife.  We’ve been married 72 years.  Can you believe that?”

I rise and cross over to greet her.  She shakes my hand, then pulls me close to speak in a quieter tone. “My hearing’s not so good, either.  What did he just say?”

“He said you have been married 72 years.  That’s wonderful!”

“Well, it’s mostly been wonderful.  We get on each other’s nerves sometimes.  But I suppose that’s true for every couple.”

I agree, and return to my place by Richard’s side.  “What would you like me to pray for today?”

“I just want to go home.  I can’t even remember why I’m still here.”

“You had your hip replaced this morning.”

“I did?”

“Yes, you did.  I overheard your son speaking with the doctor.  It went very well, you just need to rest and heal up a little more before you can go home.”

“Well, OK, that makes sense.  So how about that prayer?  What kind of pastor are you, anyway?”

“I’m a Quaker.”

“A Quaker?  Well, now isn’t that something!  Did you hear that, honey, he’s a Quaker!”


“I’m a Quaker,” I repeat, speaking directly toward her.

“So give me one of your Quaker prayers, then,” Richard requests with a smile, then closes his eyes.

I speak as loudly as I can muster.  “Dear God, thank you for your faithful servant Richard, and his wife Elizabeth.  Thank you for the way you have blessed them with each other’s love for the past 72 years.  Please fill Richard’s heart with your presence, and grant him the peace and patience he needs to heal.  Bless them and protect them as they journey home, and for all the rest of their days.”

Richard opens his eyes brightly.  “I never heard a prayer like that before.  I like that Quaker prayer!”  He turns toward Elizabeth.  “Honey, wasn’t that a wonderful prayer?”

“I COULDN’T HEAR A WORD HE SAID!” she replies.

While many patient visits are challenging, many others are uncomplicated and joyful, and leave me with a smile on my face and a spring to my step. Experiencing the love of long-term couples, especially when the honey is sharpened with a little vinegar, is one of the best parts of this work—and of life!

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