When I look back on my life there are many people I am thankful to have had the opportunity to journey with, even if it was for the shortest of times.
There is another group of people…those I never had the opportunity to meet, talk with, share some of life’s journey with and somehow that missed opportunity leaves me feeling like I am missing something. These are the people we hear about from friends and family. We are first introduced to them with words like, “I wish you had met…you would have loved them.” They continue on to share some story, character trait or ideal that made the individual so special and important in their lives.
Any time a pastor enters into a new congregation we get introduced to a lot of people in this second group. Friends and family share of those who were important in shaping who they have become. There are moments when you sit and listen as people talk of someone who is no longer present and say, “I wish I could talk with them for just fifteen minutes.”
Claude Rifus Foster is one of those people I learned about when I joined First Baptist in Kennett Square. A scholar, a teacher, a committed follower of Jesus there was something special about him. Listening to his grandson talk about him made me wish for the opportunity to get to know Claude. As his daughter shares of his passions and his writings it made me realize there would have been a lot to learn walking alongside someone like Claude.
I got a phone call the other day. It was Claude’s daughter. “Pastor, are you going to be in your office today? I have something I want to give you.” I assured her I would be there most of the day. Less than half an hour later she showed up with a piece of paper in her hand. She sat in my office and said, “I am not sure about this. I do not want to upset you, but I have this sense I am supposed to share this with you. My dad was a poet. When he had cancer he wrote a poem about chemotherapy and I want to share it with you.” Very carefully, cautiously…almost as if not to hurt me she handed me the poem. It was beautiful! It captured ideas, thoughts, struggles that ran through my mind as I sat in that treatment chair watching this fluid of death and life flow into my body last Monday. For the longest time I simply reclined in my chair listening to my music watching the slow drip as the chemicals mixed and were pumped into my body. My mind was almost numb. I could find no words. Claude could and he shared them beautifully.
I thanked his daughter for sharing them with me and asked permission to share them with on my blog.
Containers of liquid chemicals strung from
the slender, steel standards’s highest extremity,
release ever so dilatorily, drop, by drop, by drop,
down the long, thin, translucent channel,
their recruits against the mortal enemy.
The fluid slides leisurely down the flexible tube
which the nurse’s expert hands, perfected by
innumerable repetitions, have inserted into the vein,
where conduit and hand meet.
Time lingers as the silent drop, drop, drop of the liquid,
like the relentless, though languid march of allied battalions,
sovereignly measures its own beat.
Passing into the blood stream, the chemicals cannot distinguish
between a healthy and a cancerous cell.
the body, a reluctant host to the alien invaders,
must accept them as guests if it hopes to get well.
The reaction to the therapy is a dichotomy
in which the remedy is both friend and foe.
The amiable hope of healing is proffered,
but not without passage into the valley of woe.
© Claude Rifus Foster