What I Learned from a Very Sick Man


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The man was a man of renowned status. He held a prominent place in society and was honored among men; set upon a pedestal, a mighty man of valor. He had the approval and the backing of a country but he was sick; his body inflamed with sores, so he sought healing. The man was rich and could pay whatever it cost for his health to be restored. Health became more important than dollars and cents.

You know, when one is sick he will invest a fortune to get well. Sickness gnaws at the human spirit and tantalizes the mind. I have witnessed people so sick that death would have been a welcomed alternative. I never will forget the mind stunning question posed to me by a late parishioner before her suffering body eventually submitted to its fate, “Why can’t I die?”

This man was suffering under the burden of a loathsome disease, which made him a burden to himself and no doubt, to others. And so he seeks a cure. It is important to stress that he was a big man, a renowned man, a great man. But somehow being big did not excuse him from this awful condition.

Somehow life involves all men regardless of their status or statue. All men must pass the sick bed and battle the forces of disease – suffer and die like everybody else. I am not impressed with the size of funerals. I do not care anything about the price of the casket because no one is greater than another in the grave. We all meet on common ground in death.

This man was a great man, a great man with a great problem. He was as big as the world could make him but nobody wanted to be him. He was a great man – with a diseased body; a great man – caught in the grip of an inescapable dilemma; a great man – without a solution; a great man – reduced to physical rubble; a big man – but a sick man.

No man’s greatness, or honor, or richness, or education, or victory or whatever can set him out of the reach of tragic human experience. Sickness has a way of reducing all men to a common denominator. Disease makes our statue one.

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org . She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, will be available in July.


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