It was a nice day in a nice suburban neighborhood. The sun shown down upon people working in flowerbeds or taking walks. Not a thing wrong or out of place to be seen. I entered the home and was led from the front door into a sun room at the back of the house. I could have found my way alone by following the tube running from the oxygen concentrator in the living room.
He might have been a big man once. Today, the man sitting in the corner chair seemed shrunken in on himself. He had dark circles around his eyes and a slight tremor in his hand. His head was bowed. Sitting before him was one of his three daughters, gently touching him and holding his hands. Tears moved silently down her cheeks, but she smiled when I introduced myself as the chaplain and she moved so I could sit near her father.
J. T. was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He had come back to make a home, raise a family and then to help his daughters by being a doting grandfather. At age 67, congestive heart failure was cutting that dream cruelly short.
We talked a while. I gave him whatever comfort and faithful assurances I could give. When I rose to leave, J. T. thanked me for coming. Smiling, I said that I was glad I had found him – that I had almost gotten lost.
J. T. bowed his head and said so softly that I almost missed it, “People like you never get lost.”
I paused for a moment and said, “I seem to need help in finding my way a lot. I’m still learning from people who showed me the way a long time ago.”
He nodded quietly and I left, passing the local priest who had arrived to administer the sacraments. After speaking briefly with J. T.’s daughters, I got into my car and sat there.
“People like you never get lost,” he had said. God, if he only knew! Sometimes I feel like getting lost is what I do best. I’ve tried to do and to be a lot of things in my life. Sometimes I’ve been successful and a lot of times I’ve failed miserably.
One thing I have never done is to know exactly what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to do it. At least not all the time.
I’ve wandered in the wilderness mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I spent a year trying to figure out where I fit into the Church (still working on that). I spent more than a year wondering if I had anything left in my life to offer to anyone else. I always wonder why I haven’t been a better husband, a better parent, a better father.
Never get lost? J. T., if you only knew! I’ve survived by following the spiritual bread crumbs left behind by so many others. Without their help, knowing and unknowing, I’d have spent a Biblical amount of time wondering where I was and where I should be going. I still get up some mornings, look around me and wonder where the pathway went.
There are some people who seem to have all the answers all the time. I’m not one of those. I never will be. I will wander in the wilderness until I stumble upon some spiritual bread crumbs or a lamppost in a snowy forest to show me the way for a while.
You see, people like me get lost all the time.