By Greg Schmidt, hospice chaplain

One of my sons called me to tell me he got a 92 percent on a test he’d taken earlier in the day.

You have no idea how big a deal that is. He virtually hated Kindergarten. We’d pull up to Sunset Grade School and he’d announce, “Hmmm. Guess I can’t go to school today, Dad.” I’d ask him, “Why?” “Because I only have one shoe on!” Needless to say, he got out of the car and walked to class on one sock-covered foot, and I went back home to his bedroom to retrieve the other shoe.

In the 2nd grade, his mother and I forced him into a myriad of eye-to-hand-to-brain testing. Turns out he had dyslexia. No wonder he hated school! We always wondered why he’d spend 1-2 hours taking a “relaxing bath” … only to stay up even later into the evening the night before a spelling test. The poor boy couldn’t see/read what the other students did. Once that problem was adequately addressed, school became much more tolerable … except for that one thing he unfortunately inherited from his father: significant test anxiety.

The poor boy didn’t know it was lurking in his genes. My parents and grandparents never owned up to what they passed down to me. But I know I didn’t make those feelings up! And they’re still there today. Oh, I’ve said goodbye to the excuses and learned to live with the nauseating sensation I get in my gut when “grilled” or “tested” by any one of life’s challenges. But it’s still there. I just won’t be bound by it.

My son won’t either. He is now 32 and one year into a new adventure to become an electrician! I couldn’t be more proud of today’s academic victory, and the man/husband/father he is becoming. Life’s a journey, and one of the greatest desires any one of us can have is to be a lifelong learner.

Which is the reason it’s so difficult to accept the doctor’s findings when they include the phrases “…we’ve explored every possible approach to your problem and don’t believe your body can tolerate further treatment…” and “…you might have only 6 months to live.”

The challenge of being a lifelong learner kind of gets ripped away from you when you’re told your life might not be that long anymore. And that stings at so many levels. You’d think that once we endure all the emotional, personal and spiritual challenges life throws at us during the first 30-50 years of our lives, that our mental and physical body could respond favorably and provide us the opportunity to reap the “rewards” we thought we’d receive throughout the back half of this journey. Sure, no one – not even God – “promised” those “rewards”, but … come on!

Here’s a reality to embrace: Life is a test. And, anxious or not, prepared or not, the test will, in fact, be given. To everyone. Equally. There are no “ifs” or “maybes.” You will be tested at some time. Likely multiple times. None are exempt.

Perhaps the single greatest thing my life’s experiences tell me is that God will always be present to support and encourage me. I don’t believe God will somehow mysteriously give me answers to test questions I haven’t studied for. I do have to make an effort to study, memorize and retain everything related to the test before me. Reading, practicing, and doing all play a role in my learning, and test-taking. Surrounding myself with those who can monitor, guide, challenge, correct and comfort me is one of my first lines of defense. And we all know that the best offense is a great defense.

The team at Heart & Soul Hospice has faced a wide variety of tests in its first two years. I suppose every new hospice struggles in a similar way. I’m OK with each struggle, because I know that the struggle itself will force us to look beyond ourselves for answers. To be sure, because we know that He is faithful to walk alongside us, we’ll look to God. And we’ll also look to those who can teach, demonstrate, challenge and comfort us in our quest to gain greater understanding into what it means to be a great hospice.

Why? To build our ego-centered lives/resumes? Nope. To be better equipped to meet the physical, emotional, personal and spiritual needs of our patients and their families! Our corporation’s and our hospice’s heartfelt desire is to serve out residents and patients “guided by Christian values.” Simply put, we will become the hands and feet of Jesus Himself to the world at our doorstep. How do I know? Because we’re in pursuit of His heart.

P.S. The team at Heart & Soul Hospice is always looking for those with the same desire to serve others with end-of-life care. Are you interested in joining us in the journey? Say goodbye to the excuses, and give us a call!