|Fallen leaves with "memories" of other leaves photo H. Price|
Most extraordinary to me
These old women seemed so utterly lost.
Knowing how troubled I was
was borne in on me
a theology of comfort to meet my needs.
However over the months I was given little momentary glimpses,
of the "somebody" still inside,
even those who seemed deep down in their lost state.
(Remember we were living intimately,
through un-interrupted days and nights,
with few distractions, and no escape.)
I began to fully trust that despite the outward evidence
their true inner self did remain,
and that we are not merely body and mind,
but the essence of ourselves is spirit,
coming out of,
and returning to the eternal.
Still it was hard to be in their company,
though I remained convinced their true self was,
in it's secret place,
One of the indications this could be true
came via an old lady who spent a fortnight in the bed next to me.
She was there so that the daughter, who was her full time carer,
could have some respite break herself.
The old lady was without speech,
accept for a seemingly constant twittering and murmuring.
Obviously deeply distressed and disorientated
at her strange surroundings,
she refused her food,
and often tried throwing herself over the cot sides.
From my own prone position I tried to sooth her.
Telling over and over that her daughter would be back.
That the food was good.
That she would soon be going home.
How pretty she looked in her clean nightie...
At times she seemed to quieten a little.
At last the day arrived when her daughter came
to accompany her home in the ambulance.
At almost the last moment on the ward the old lady turned
and looked directly at me
saying quite clearly,
Then the twittering resumed, her gaze wavered,
and she was lost again.
Her daughter whooped in triumph,
"You heard that didn't you?
The doctors say it is impossible and that I imagine it,
but from time to time the mists clear
and this happens!"
Now of course we can clinically measure whether
those random functions are a possibility
and knowing much more about the workings of the body and brain,
her doctors would not have dismissed her so readily.
knowing the time would come
when this brief coming together of faculties would cease
and there would be no further outward sign of the person within.
Yet I continued, and still continue to believe
that even when all other faculties were gone
my companions were never truly lost,
for there is no MRI that can read the spirit,
and it's secret eternal life.
Years later my belief was affirmed when, reading the scriptures
I found I already knew,
the psalmist's words:-
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:
when I awake, I am still with thee."
As I write this, one of my dearest friends
is spending her first week in a residential home
after many months of struggling with dementia,
and two old friends have come to the end of their
descent into Alzheimer's
by dying within a few days of one another.
Paddy, and Bill,
and all who suffer in mind or body,
may your night shine as day,
for you are not,
and never were,
alone in the darkness.