This happened years ago but David and I still laugh about it.
David was a deacon, a lawyer, and a young Christian who wanted to grow in his usefulness to the Lord. One day he asked to accompany me on my hospital visitation. “I’d like to get more comfortable visiting in the hospitals,” he said. “Sure. Great.”
A good thing for a deacon to do. For any of us to do.
The next morning around 7:30 we met in the medical center parking lot. We greeted each other and I made a couple of suggestions. “The first few patients we see, I’ll introduce you, but don’t say anything. Just pay attention.” Then, we went upstairs.
In 99 percent of the cases, hospital visitation is not difficult. It’s simply a Christian friend calling on another friend. Sometimes it’s big brother ministering to a hurting brother, and often nothing more profound than two old buddies chatting. Normally, my plan was to visit with the person no more than a couple of minutes, and if all was well, to share a verse of scripture (from memory) and lead in a brief prayer of praise and commitment.
After the third or fourth patient, as we headed upstairs, I said, “David, in the next room, I’ll call on you to pray.” Fine.
A few minutes later as we left the patient’s room, in the hallway he said, “How was that?”
I said, “Well, normally that’s a good thing to pray. But a hospital room may not be where you want to pray ‘Lord, help us to live this day as if it were our last.’ The patient is facing some heavy medical stuff.”
He said, “Did I say that?” I laughed, “It’s all right. She didn’t seem to mind.”
It’s a cliche’ and not a bad one. According to the book, that line originated in the decade of A.D. 170-180, thanks to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. (He lived April 26, 121 to March 17, 180. A Stoic philosopher, he seems to have been the type of ruler Plato had in mind with his concept of “philosopher-kings.”)
The exact quote from Marcus Aurelius: And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as it were the last.