“You’re a blessing in disguise,” the elderly man assured me as he ran his hand across my collie’s back. Stan’s* voice cracked and he worked at squelching his tears. His struggle triggered my own tears, but I braced them inside with a bite of my lip.
Pet therapy volunteering at a local hospital with my collie, Maisie, always leaves me profoundly moved by the patients, family members, and staff members I meet every week. But this week after meeting Stan, I couldn’t shake our conversation. Actually, few words left my mouth. I just let Stan and Maisie connect.
“Come Here, Girl”
When I entered Stan’s room, he was on a side mini sofa finishing his mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Of course, Maisie wanted to help Stan clean his plate, so I quickly scooted the tray out of the way of her discerning nose. That’s when Stan, thin and scraggly bearded, wooed Maisie to his side. “Here girl, come here, girl,” Stan’s gravelly voice directed.
Maisie eased closer so Stan could extend his bony hand to rub her face gently. “Good girl,” he exclaimed as Maisie relaxed and leaned against the sofa edge.
Stan garbled his words, mumbling a bit about his own dogs over the years. Then he paused, leaning forward in his much-too-big hospital gown. “After the news I got today, you are a blessing in disguise,” his voice quivered.
Immediately I grimaced inside, Oh no, was Stan told he is terminal? Is he now expecting to die in the coming days?
The Tender Silence
Stan stroked Maisie’s head and she held calmly still. I did too, simply watching this hurting man connect with my Lassie girl. Stan gazed into Maisie’s eyes and she returned the focused look.
“You’re a blessing in disguise,” Stan repeated as he pressed his face into Maisie’s neck and wrapped his arm firmly across her shoulders. “Francis of Assisi,” he muttered, referring to the Catholic saint noted for his love and care of animals.
Stan embraced my girl and she leaned into his gray, cropped beard. The tender silence echoed with resonating meaning. A dying man was sensing the nearness of God through His creation. And I was an honored witness.
Sometimes when we least expect it, blessings come disguised as a stranger or a loved one in need. This week, Stan was my blessing disguised in a hospital gown on his way out of this world.
I wonder if I always notice the blessings interwoven in my days. Thanks, Stan, for reminding me that some gifts from above are wrapped in fur or simply in moments of noticing others.