Letters From a Hospital Bed #3: Reflections From a 99 Year Old
Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.
November 30, 2021
It is now just one week since my birthday. It was both a sobering and joyful time.
A few days before my birthday, Tony was sitting opposite me at breakfast. He is dead now. He was only 74 and I am 99. In the past, I was subject to heart attacks. I no longer have them because the last serious one was about ten years ago and what was blocked was the major artery that they call the ‘widows artery’. Its blockage is often deadly. With new heart technology at that time, a balloon was injected that kept my widows artery permanently opened, to avoid death. It has secured me ever since. It is that medical intervention that enabled my family and I to celebrate 99 years on November 21. In other words, I have inherited survival because of that balloon. Ironically, newer technologies, might not have saved me. (Editors note: Dad’s grasp of the preciseness of medical science sometimes takes interesting paths, not generally known by the science itself! We have learned to seek the ‘gist’ of his medical insight, preferring not to count too much on its precision). Some months ago, I came to this hospital, where dear Rita spent her last months, because they have hospice care. I entered this place because it was hospice. I came here to die. But I have realized through Tony’s death that I came here to care and comfort those around me, whoever they are. There is no retirement for those who would live a beatific life – that is a life that fulfils the beatitudes. And so as I enter into this 100th year, through my birthday, I realize that I am blessed to have lived these 99 years. I just hope, that even when I am eventually dying, I can still live as a witness to living a beatific life.
I have been haunted ever since I had gone to a conference that was very challenging with some students, in 1964. I came back and God appeared as in an intense light at the foot of my bed. I had the same reaction in amazement as Saul of Tarsus who cried out “Oh King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to that heavenly vision”. It called me to emigrate from Oxford, with my family, and though I have had some hard moments emotionally, this text still challenges me to go on living faithfully until I die. It was much more than an academic calling, or a calling according to what I would like to do, it simply binds my life. Since 1964, until when I will be called home, eternally. I am like the Old Testament slave whose ear was bored to be always listening and responding; for me, to my Heavenly Father. It is like saying, I have a new name that is reflective of my identity. I am always the eternal servant of God. So, my prayer for you is that you each have eyes to see and ears to hear that your life is called to serve others because you are the slave of Jesus Christ. Your calling will always be far, far more than a professional interest and you will find yourself united beyond all professional interest, united within yourself and with your Lord. You will not be what Scripture describes as ‘unstable in all one’s ways’. It is like a good marriage. This is the reality that the mystics like Theresa of Avila, who stepped forward in her meditations from being in love with Christ to being married to Christ. It is an eternal union.
As I have celebrated my birthday in which I recognize the enormous gift and privilege of a gift of life, I wish you each every blessing of Christ