It was summer and the setting sun poured along the corridor as I looked for the ward he had been moved to. Len was dying peacefully and so those who loved him kept watch, always one, sometimes two. This time there was just one sitting by the bed. Len had turned away and was sleeping, his face bathed in the gentle rays of the sun just about to slip beneath the horizon of English Bay.
The two of us went to the bedside and for a moment looked at Len. There was no sign of pain or discomfort. We both took his hand. Very quietly and deliberately we began to say what Len would have known since childhood. Our Father, who art in Heaven…thy Kingdom come..., his hand tightened slightly as if joining us…thy will be done. On earth as in heaven…very slowly an eyelid lifted … then another…then joining us, a voice…for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory …his lips moving, his eyes open he joined us in words remembered since childhood and to which he had remained faithful all his life. We ended together. Len slept again. Just before his eyes closed again, she bent and kissed him. I left them. She accompanied me to the elevator. Their son was due any minute. Len left before sunrise.
What made this evening unforgettable was what happened after we parted. I had decided to see if another parishioner was awake on a lower floor. As I got out of the elevator and started along the floor a nurse guided a wheelchair into the corridor. Before they turned away and went ahead of me, I saw that the patient was elderly and frail, so frail that she had to be supported in the chair. Her whole demeanor was one of frailty and extreme exhaustion. I emphasize this because of what took place, astonishing both the nurse and I.
The nurse and her patient were about ten feet ahead of me when I heard a voice, strong and vibrant. I looked around expecting to see someone but there was no one else. The voice continued reciting one of the most frequently quoted poems in the English language, reciting without the least hesitation, every word clear.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of golden daffodils.
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
On she went, reciting the complete poem. At the end her voice sank back into silence, and she slumped forward in an exhaustion that had been entirely absent as the lovely lines seized her and rendered her so astonishingly eloquent.
I drove home slowly and thoughtfully. Twice in these quiet hours I had heard voices, one approaching death, the other mysteriously transformed from weakness to power. The thought struck me that few people realize the privileges of priesthood.
Credit: Goroden Koff