“Special Diagnosis”

In a lower desk drawer in his study in Greensboro, Randall maintained a confidential file he labeled “Special Diagnosis.” Recorded within the file were names of individuals who had made him aware of potentially life-limiting health circumstances, along with his notes regarding their current health status. Whenever these individuals should die, their departure dates would be recorded. Pages would be added as additional people with “special diagnoses” came to their pastor’s attention.

Randall’s hospital visitation routine in Greensboro saw him make “rounds” at up to three local hospitals on two or three days of each week, plus weekends as needed. On rare occasions he would enter an unusual pact with a dying church member to visit that person more often.

Madeline (not her real name) was a younger, middle-aged woman, hospitalized with terminal cancer. During her pastor’s biweekly visits, she disclosed that she was always buoyed by his presence and found herself depressed until he appeared at her bedside again. Randall summarily promised that he would begin at once to see Madeline and pray with her every day. It was a pledge that he fulfilled, day by day, week after week, up to the time of her death. His close attention and ministry of careful listening enabled Randall to stand at Madeline’s funeral and speak authoritatively of her inner struggles and eventual spiritual victory, information that served to strengthen her grieving husband and school-age daughter.

During retirement, and living near the capital city of Raleigh, the terminal illness of a former seminary student and current employee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina came to Randall’s attention. While sitting at Ken’s (not his real name) hospital bedside, Randall made a similar pledge to begin visiting daily. The subsequent steady contact and intense personal involvement transported him to the patient’s inner psyche. Randall later marveled that Ken, a beneficiary of theological education and a deep thinker, nevertheless appeared near the end of his life to “revert to the simpler faith of his youth.”

This post originally appeared in Randall Lolley: Thanks for the Memories by Steve Pressley. To read more about Dr. Lolley’s life and ministry, order your copy today.

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