In honor of clergy appreciation month, we extend our gratitude to the 43 dedicated PHS Campus Pastors and chaplains as well as countless volunteer clergy members who extend spiritual care, worship opportunities, and the love of God to the older adults we serve. Maranatha Campus Pastor, Peter Johnson shares a personal reflection on the PHS Biblical Framework passage from John 19:25-27.
By guest writer: Peter Johnson, Maranatha Campus Pastor
I was told that one of our residents, a Kenyan woman who had been in the final hours of her life, had passed away and her only daughter, also born and raised in Kenya, had just arrived. The daughter accepted our offer to hold the Bedside Memorial and Procession of Honor. So, I went up to lead the Bedside Memorial in the resident's room. I hadn't met the daughter yet, but I was told she was a nurse at a local hospital and had come directly from work. I kept my eyes open for a Kenyan woman wearing scrubs.
When I arrived at the resident's room, a bedside memorial of sorts had already begun in earnest. There were a lot of tears, remembering, and praising God for the resident. There was not one, but four African women present, wearing typical nursing apparel. In their prayers and thanksgiving they were all referring to the deceased resident as "our mother."
I was a little confused. I recognized two of the Kenyan women who were resident assistants at our campus. The other two I had not seen before. I asked them which one of them was the daughter of the resident. They answered, "We are all her daughters."
I must have looked confused because one of the Kenyan women began to explain, "In Kenya we think of all women her age as our mother. We treat her like we would our own mother. We give her respect and honor. We love her like our own mother. That is why we all cry and thank God for her. She is our mother." The others nodded in agreement. I eventually found out which woman was biologically related to the resident who had passed away. However, what they said stuck with me. Whenever I read the PHS Biblical Framework passage from John 19:25-27, I think of that experience.
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
In the last moments of his life, Jesus sees the disciple named John standing next to his mother Mary. In essence, Jesus gives John the charge to love Mary, 'our' mother. Although not biologically related, John now embraces Mary as his own mother. This new relationship is not a matter of simply making an obligatory visit every so often. It is not even just providing for her financially. It is a whole new posture toward Mary--loving, honoring, respecting and cherishing her as his mother. We see that this is precisely what John did.
This Biblical Framework passage from John 19 not only describes what we do, it also describes how we go about it. Like Jesus, family members who are not able to care for their loved ones entrust them into our care. Their desire is that we would care for their loved ones as if they were our own family. This not only involves competence and excellence but also a deep concern for each person and their overall well-being. It involves a deep respect. It even involves loving and cherishing them.
At PHS we consider the question, "How would I carry out my role as if the people I served were my own parents?"
What is in our hearts and minds will determine how we approach the people we serve. Thinking of them as if they were our own parents transforms our roles from being a set of tasks we perform into a passion we express. We are called to honor, respect and love the people we serve. It is what they truly deserve, it is what their families want, and I also believe it pleases the Lord, who once entrusted His own beloved mother into another’s care.