Ina and Frances

I went looking for Ina. We’d never met. I was visiting her at the request of an old friend. Ina is dying, serving out her last days at a local convalescent home. She was in room #221. When I walked in, there were two beds separated by a curtain. I asked the first lady, “Are you Ina?” She responded, “I think I am.” That didn’t satisfy me. I went to the next bed with the same question, “Are you Ina?” She started to cry. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I looked at the photos on the wall and found my friend. The second lady was Ina.

Ina was weak and frail; her quiet crying and apparent inability to speak signs of age and Parkinson’s. She is not long for this world. Having pulled over a chair, I introduced myself and started talking. I told her I was a friend of her daughter’s and a pastor. I knew she had a church background as a young girl so I began there. My questions were met with silence as she continued to whimper. I spoke of Jesus, sin, and the cross; I spoke of grace, faith, and forgiveness. She seemed to track but I wasn’t sure.

Then I realized my questions were being answered; comments and reactions were coming from the other side of the curtain—the woman who thought she might be Ina, though separated by a curtain, believed I was talking with her. And I must say; though the circumstances of my visit were difficult and somber, I smiled and had a hard time not laughing. I asked Ina if she was a believer in Jesus, and from the other side of the curtain I heard, “Why yes; of course I am.” I asked Ina if she was ready to die, and from the hidden bed I heard, “Well, I suppose I am.” This went on for ten minutes or so; quiet questions to a silent Ina answered by the lady on the other side of the curtain who thought I was talking with her.

After praying and saying good-bye to Ina, I made my way toward the door and the other side of the curtain. I paused and asked the elderly lady her name, in a moment of clarity, she said, “I am Frances.” “Yes you are,” I replied, “and you are a Christian.” She gave me a faint smile, closed her eyes, and out into the hallway I went.

Later thinking about this odd interplay, I was reminded that we often interact with people not even knowing it. Others are watching and listening to us as we live life. Do our words and actions match? Is our faith confirmed by our behavior? Is there evidence we are Christian? Curtains may hide their inquiry but eavesdropping and investigating is always going on; by children, by neighbors, by classmates, by colleagues, and so on.

Though I was talking to Ina, I was also talking to Frances. Who is your life talking to? What’s your life saying? You’re talking to a lot more people than you think.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

January 15, 2015


  1. Beautiful! And a good reminder, we’re here to proclaim the LORD’s life, not our own☺️ Thanks Pastor

  2. Thank you for your real life story. We all need to visit people in need like Ina. There are “Ina’s” all around us, some in the hospital, some in the convalescent home, some in line next to us at the grocery store. When we are talking to “Ina”, there might be a “Frances” listening in the next aisle or across the room. And guess who else is listening and watching: God. So pray without ceasing that our times with “Ina” and “Frances” will glorify a watching and loving God!

  3. Recently, I was sitting in a restaurant together with a friend of mine. We were having lunch with a neighbor, a young woman, a recent immigrant to the U.S. Four months ago, she gave birth to her first child. She had questions about motherhood and parenting. We were talking with her, drawing considerably on what the Bible has to say about these topics. Well into our conversation, a young woman appeared at our table. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation – I’m sitting two booths over. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m a single mother, and I have been struggling with the same issues, trying to discern how to be a good mother. What you are saying has made so much sense, and I just wanted to let you know how helpful your conversation has been to me.” … We then asked if we could pray for her. She welcomed the offer and we proceeded right then to pray. The Gospel going out in the ordinariness of our day. Thank You, Holy Spirit!

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