I’ve said Psalm 23 many times.
I’ve read it, reflected on it, taught about it. I’ve thought about the metaphors of sheep beside still waters, of resting, of feasting in the middle of fearsomeness. I’ve been grateful that I am not the shepherd.
But I don’t say it every day. And one day in the hospital, I was asked to say it. I was next to the bed of a person who would breathe his last breath within an hour or so.
I thought through the words, and I realized that I couldn’t remember them all. Not in the right order of images and phrases. And I knew it was a life and death situation.
Not that anyone would die because I couldn’t remember the words. But this family knew that these words mattered to this family member. And they wanted to hear me say them as a final blessing. And they wanted to join me. And I wanted to be as inviting and comforting and tender as I could be. If I led them in the wrong direction as we walked through the phrases, it would call attention away from the moment into the memorization.
So I pulled out my phone and looked up the text. And attended to the family through their final moments together.
A week or so later, I added the words of Psalm 23 to the page on the front of my clipboard. It’s the reminder page I carry all the time. It reminds me how to approach people. It reminds me of a couple procedures, a couple of phrases that we need to get right. It reminds me of the some names of people and the phone numbers we use most often.
And now it reminds me of this piece of poetry that many people find comforting. Because some things are so important to remember that it’s worth making sure we can’t forget them.