This is from a blog I did a number of years ago when I wanted to share some of my experiences as a hospital chaplain. The blog is called The Many Faces of Grief, and I have been reading some of those older posts as I walk this path of grief. One thing I have discovered is that it is much easier to deal with grief professionally than it is personally.
Anyway, I found this piece about a wonderful experience I had during the years I worked at a hospital, and I thought I would share it.
Sometimes ministry takes strange turns. One wouldn’t necessarily
consider fishing a ministry, but in the case of Mr. Charles it was.
Charles, a retired Presbyterian minister, was our neighbor in Omaha and
about a year after his wife died, he was diagnosed with leukemia. It
was not the virulent leukemia that kills so many young people, He had
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, which is a slow-progressing form of the
blood cancer and is very treatable for several years.
I first met
Mr. Charles when I was out walking my dogs, and we would pass by his yard. He
was one of the few neighbors who would be outside no matter what the
weather was like, and we would often chat for a few minutes. He was
thrilled to find out that my husband was a minister and that I am a
chaplain, finding a common bond in shared ministry.
When I would
stop to visit, some of our other conversations revolved around fishing
and the great walleyes that could be found in lakes north of us,
although Mr. Charles preferred the trout at a lake much closer. One day
he told me how much he missed fishing, and I was surprised to find out
he was no longer going out. He explained that his children, both of whom
lived some distance away, were afraid for him to go out alone now that
he was sick, and the friend he used to fish with was no longer able to.
talked about this a couple more times when I stopped on my daily walk,
and finally it hit me that maybe he was really grieving for this loss in
his life. I asked if he would like to go fishing with me sometime.
“Oh, I thought you would never ask,” he said.
“But why didn’t you just ask me?”
a black man cannot invite a white woman to go fishing,” he said. “That
is the way I was raised. I could never be that forward. But there is
nothing in that code of conduct that says I cannot accept your
So, for the next year, Mr. Charles and I went
fishing about once a week in prime fishing times, stopping only when
winter snowed us in.
Sometimes we would talk about the beauty
and bounty of God, and other times we would talk about social issues, or
books, or whatever topic struck our fancy. That would always be on the
drive to and from the lake, however. The time at the lake was spent in
quiet contemplation of the warmth of the sun, the gentle splash of water
against the dock, the screech of a gull, or the drone of a curious bee
circling our can of soda.
Actually catching a fish was never a criterion for measuring the success of a fishing trip.