Meet John and Maureen. John was diagnosed with diabetes in his early twenties, has been struggling with health issues for a number of years. He was taken into hospital last week with a serious heart condition. We heard that he might not make it. Well he did make it, and I got to catch up with him with his wife a couple of days later in their home.
He was surprisingly upbeat. He wasn’t perturbed by the fact that he came very close to death. Smiling, he pointed his finger up in the air – “I know the reason,” he said, “My room isn’t quite ready yet.” No, I guess it isn’t John.
We chatted together on a range of different subjects – family, the people at Grace Church, Nelson weather (always a talking point in this area), and his former work as a tool-maker in the Kapiti Coast. That’s when my eyes lit up. A fellow-machinist! That moved the conversation in the direction of lathes and milling and gear making and the like. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Maureen smiling politely, but looking a little bored. It was time to move the conversation on.
John then shared about his life as a diabetic. He was diagnosed early in life, just after the second world war. Little was known about the disease back then. He told me about one of his early visits with the doctor. “Just pull up a piece a skin like this and jab the needle in. Here’s your insulin. You’ll need to sharpen the needle every once in a while, but you’re an engineer – I’m sure you’ll come up with a way to do that.”
I stared at John in disbelief – “You re-used the needle?”
He laughed – “Yes, unheard of today isn’t it?”
I forget how far we’ve come. But that was the way things were. He was told he must clean the skin first with rubbing alcohol. Then later he found he didn’t need to do that. He also found out that pulling up the skin stimulates the nerve ends and causes more pain when you inject. You are better to push it straight in. Injecting for John was much more comfortable after that. Sixty years of three injections a day – well, that’s a hang of a lot of jabs!
John and Maureen took an overseas trip earlier in life, while John was still in good health. They went to Egypt, Israel and Greece. The highlight for John was Greece, visiting the cities were the Apostle Paul travelled and standing on the very spot he preached. “It was magnificent”, he said, “to be there. I’ll never forget it.” They went into a restaurant in Athens (or was it Crete?) and people thought they were Americans. They weren’t getting any service. When it was made known they were kiwis people were jumping over the counter to come and talk to them. We laughed about that. Kiwis’ are loved where ever you go in the world (at least, for the most part).
“We are so blessed,” said Maureen. “God has given us some wonderful years. We’ve had such a good life.”
There was a lovely serenity about this couple. They were utterly at peace, perfectly content, trusting God for each and every day, because “days” are all John may have. One by one, all of the pressures of my day and the tasks that were left undone slowly ebbed into the recesses of my consciousness. Here was beauty, here was loveliness; here was wholeness. This was a picture of how God intended things from the beginning. It was a glimpse of Eden, only with old age and diabetes and decay. But it was also a glimpse of the new Eden, when all things will become new.
Lord Jesus, may I be like couple this in my latter days. Let me live fully for you now, so when I have lost all strength and vigour, I can end my days in peace and bask in the memories of a life well lived. Let me live like it’s my last day, every day.