Good old Silas. He was an octogenarian Swedish Lutheran who was a faithful member of my parish. He had been a widower for a number of years but came regularly to Sunday morning Services. He, like most men of his generation was laconic and stolid. He didn’t talk a whole lot and he never chattered. But the twinkle in his eye when he would try and kid with me was genuine and endearing.
I was told that he had been taken from the retirement community to the local hospital. I was told by family and medical staff that he was dying and probably would not last the week. I was told that he was in an unresponsive unconscious state, though not a coma, and may not wake up or show recognition.
I went to visit him with my Communion kit in case he did wake up. I had my Bible and my Hymnal as well.
This was a small hospital in a small town but Silas had his own room.I entered and sat down on a chair by the side of his bed. Silas looked older than I had remembered seeing him the weeks before his hospitalization. He looked like he did not have a lot of time left. It is a sin what age and disease, i.e. sin, does to sinners--tall and muscular young men reduced to shrunken and emaciated wisps.
As I could not wake him I did not commune him. After having read some Scripture, part of Sunday's upcoming homily, and sharing with him a devotion (from Fr. Fritz’s breviary - - Rev’d B.F. Eckardt not the other guy) I thought of something that I had never done for a shut-in or a hospital patient before—I would sing to him.
Now to be honest, I think I only arrived at this daring “audible” because Silas was unconscious. Parishioners who have heard what comes out of my mouth, which I imaginatively call singing or chanting, know that this was a gamble. I might very well have sent Silas to Abraham’s bosom even more quickly than the Angels could have borne him home. I looked around and determined that no nurses or orderlies were skulking about in the immediate vicinity, and started singing. I sang every old reliable hymn that I thought Silas might have enjoyed. I sang more hymns than I’ve ever sung in one setting before. I sang hymns that I didn’t even like and that I’m sure I butchered badly. Me carrying a tune is like Sisyphus trying to roll that rock up the pointy hill. I was singing for Silas’ Peace and Joy which I had hitherto preached into his ears. I was singing to Him the stories of His Lord Jesus’ love and forgiveness. I was saying goodbye to an old and tired warrior. I ended up by singing my favorite TLH hymn “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” (# 429). I sang it with more gusto than beauty. When I finished it, I wiped my eyes, and got up to leave. I joked to the unconscious veteran of the cross: “Silas, I’m leaving for some Lutefisk (he used to tease me about my reluctance to eat rotten fish) I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN!"
I meant in my own heart, I would see Him again in Heaven at the Parousia.
I saw Silas again, and again. He woke up the following day and was released back to the nursing home the following week. And while I had numerous more shut-in visits with this tough old saint, he never once mentioned the fact that I had sung to him for well over 30 minutes. He may not have been aware of it. Or, in his tough but tender-hearted decency he may have simply been saving me from an honest critique.
I miss Silas. And I will still sing for my parishioners… upon request.