by Mary Noble Garcia
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” —Frederick Buechner
When my uncle was nearing the end of his life, he placed the decisions about his care in his granddaughter’s hands, declaring, “Audrie is the boss.” Audrie is a beautiful, bright, dark haired young woman with a gentle, quiet, confident presence. Trained as a nurse, she has accompanied many in the transition from life to death.
The last days of my uncle’s life were spent with his children and grandchildren, sharing stories, laughter, and tears. As he entered into his last hours he could no longer speak. His family surrounded him as he lay in the bed he had shared with his wife of sixty-two years who had died three years earlier. As they watched and waited they began to pick up on Audrie’s cues and observations—the presence of so many in the room was causing him to be restless. One by one, each family member took turns saying good-bye with words of love and gratitude, hugs and kisses, and then left the room.
When she found herself alone with her grandfather, Audrie had a little talk with him and assured him that she would not leave him alone. Waiting by his bedside she felt anxious and scared. She watched as he began to relax and realized that she needed to relax with him. She decided to lay next to him—grandfather with grandchild, not unlike the way he held her as an infant so she could relax into sleep. As she settled in and held him, their eyes met, he took one last breath, and let go into the arms of Love.
As Audrie ushered her grandfather to the threshold between life and death, she accepted God’s call in that place where her deep gladness met the world’s deep hunger. Her compassionate presence and her gifts as a nurse met her beloved grandfather’s need to be held in love in his last moments of life. Audrie gave her grandfather and all who loved him a sacred gift. As I reflect on her story, her gift invites me to explore these questions: What is my deep gladness? Where do I encounter the world’s deep hunger in my work, home, and community? How am I invited to lovingly act with God in that place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger? What causes me to resist God’s call? What gives me courage to accept God’s call?
I am grateful to Audrie for generously giving me permission to share her story. Like Audrie, may we have the courage to embrace God’s call and experience the transformative power of God’s love in the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.