Luke 23:42-43 – He said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (KJV)
My late husband was a chaplain attached to the local Royal Canadian Legion, and when one of the members was near death, his two nephews approached my husband to conduct their uncle's funeral service. My husband readily agreed, although he did not know the dying man personally. However, we went to the nursing home to visit the Legion member.
The man did not stir when we quietly slipped into his room, and after a few moments, my husband began to pray. My husband knew nothing of the man's life. How could he bring this dying stranger into an attitude of prayer? He began with those lovely words, written by Anna B. Warner, often found in the children's section of a hymnal:
- Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me:
The Bible tells me so.
- – Anna B. Warner; refrain by William Bradbury
I opened my eyes. Was this stranger still part of our world? He did not stir, and his eyes were closed, but I noticed the corners of his lips curl up into a slow, small smile. Perhaps his mind had returned to his childhood, and he had reaffirmed his relationship with the Saviour, as when he had sung and believed the truth of those lovely words. Perhaps now, death held no fear for him.
When we returned home, a telephone message was waiting for us; our new friend had slipped away.
It is well known that the last faculty to shut down is hearing. I've heard of other people who have gone in to an otherwise unresponsive, dying patient, read Scripture to them, explained salvation, and prayed a prayer which, if the person had repeated it in their mind, would have invited Jesus to enter their hearts. We might never know what such a person's response would be — only God knows — but it is never too late to witness.
Prayer: Lord of life and death, remind us that while there is life and breath, there is opportunity to witness to Jesus. May the words we say, and sing, among the dying, be blessed by the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts of those whom You choose to call to faith and life in Jesus Christ. Amen.