Booting Bumbling Bildad from the Room

Don't let your visit stress out the patient or the caregiver.

Don’t let your visit stress out the patient or the caregiver.

The well-meaning man of God sat in the chair opposite from me, vacantly watching the nurse take Pedro’s vital signs. Pedro’s eyelids drifted down as the morphine took effect.

I could use a shot of that stuff, I thought. Then I could escape this insufferable visitor without seeming rude.

The nurse left and Pastor Bildad cleared his throat, eager, it seemed, to impart his wisdom before the morphine called Pedro away from confession. “Sometimes God brings us trials because we need them to grow.” The subtle lift of the eyebrow, another earnest look at Pedro’s pain-wracked face.

I shifted in my chair and nodded. Pastor Bildad’s gimlet gaze shifted to me. Maybe I was projecting, but if that was his brand of theology, I’m glad I wasn’t his church member. When disaster struck, our small congregation was shepherdless, so Pastor Bildad from the sister congregation in the next town felt obliged to do his duty and visit Pedro to provide support and comfort.

Unfortunately, the support and comfort of this virtual stranger stretched into hours. Pedro and I had decisions to make—should he opt for a needle biopsy, or should they just dig in and slice out a piece of the tumor? Should we go ahead and have Sarah’s eighth birthday party on Sunday, or was it wrong to celebrate life in the maw of possible death?
I could feel Pastor Bildad’s expectancy. “Pardon me, what did you say?” I asked. “I was distracted.” That was an understatement. I glanced at Pedro, relieved to find him asleep and enjoying his newfound drug use.

“Aaarrum,” Pastor Bildad cleared his throat, signaling a weighty morsel for my hungry soul. “One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from first John, chapter one, verse nine, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will purify us from all unrighteousness.’”

I kept my face passive, but inside I was dancing a jig. I KNEW it! He’s finally acknowledged the elephant he brought into the room! I nodded my head and searched for a suitable platitude.

“Isn’t God good? He’ll forgive us of anything,” I replied. Including your presumption and your sin of lingering in a sickroom until you lift your pointy finger in judgment. I glanced again at Pedro. He’d get a kick out of this. I was tempted to wake him up the second Pastor Bildad left. I glanced at my watch. Give the pastor sixty seconds, and he’ll find a reason to leave, now that his duty is done.

“Harrumph,” Pastor Bildad bounced out of his chair, his glowing complexion and trim figure screamed a silent message. “I’d best be off now. Looks like our patient needs some rest. Call me any time you need comfort, or,” he glanced over at Pedro again, “anything.”

Confession? Absolution? An opportunity for you to drag your elephant back into the room where it will suck up vital oxygen and slowly kill me? “Thank you,” I murmured. When Hell freezes over. I kept my smile pasted in place until the door closed behind Pastor Bildad, then burst into tears.

Father forgive him, he knows not what he says. I’d just endured three interminable hours of a pastor poking at the edges of reason (and sanity). His last lame offering confirmed my initial impression. Pastor Bildad, who didn’t even know Pedro, was convinced that Pedro was harboring some secret sin that caused his pain. If Pedro would just confess his sin, the tumor in his neck would be benign? If Pedro would give up meat and exercise more and live a healthier lifestyle, God would reward him with renewed health?

But maybe it was my fault? If I were nicer to people who annoyed me and confessed my sins of indulgence (usually in chocolate), God would be satisfied that He’d caught my attention with His heavenly whistle and take away the turmoil our family had been pitched into?

I couldn’t wait for Pedro to wake up so that I could vent with him about Pastor Bildad’s assumptions. But wait, was I projecting? Maybe the pastor’s words had resonated in some way with Pedro, provided comfort instead of anger. But no, I knew my husband, and I was only sorry I was too weak to boot Bildad from the bedroom when it first became apparent he’d brought an elephant with him.

Next time, I would be strong. I would be crafty. I would keep him (and any of his ilk) in the hallway. Note to self—if he’s not in the room, I won’t have to kick him out!

Have you ever wanted to kick someone out of your loved one’s room?  What made a visit from the clergy seem like true help?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • JaneAnn Bennett

    I feel for you. My husband does not have cancer but severe dementia. “Last” time I took him to a music program people came up to him and said, “do you know who I am?”, course he said yes. Then they asked “what is my name?”. We have people come to the house and do the same thing. That is so rude and embarrassing for him because he can’t help that he doesn’t know them. Sometimes people just don’t think. I wish I had a good remark for them…. but maybe it is better that I don’t.

    • Wow, JaneAnn! I’d never thought of how devastating it would be to have someone say, “Do you know who I am?” to someone who can’t remember :(. Thank you for educating us. I wonder how other caregivers of family members with memory loss handle this?

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