Three year ago this December, I was sitting in a skilled nursing facility with three of my siblings listening to our mother speak in long nonsensical sentences. We nodded attentively, tried to make some kind of sense of her rambling paragraphs of words and had to keep our eyes from each other for fear we'd start laughing at any minute. One afternoon, for no apparent reason (or at least one that I can pull up from my memory) she suddenly lifted both hands and began singing the Hallelujah chorus. And then the four of us laughed. You would have too, I promise you.
Tonight, Beve and I sat in Grampie's room in a skilled nursing facility, listening him talk about a trip to New York he was convinced he was due to take today. Oh, and was it morning or evening where we live? Could we make a decision about that with him? His conversation was long and meandering, incoherent and dreamlike, though he wasn't asleep. Beve and I couldn't look at each other, for fear that we'd laugh. And I was waiting any minute for his hands to raise and the Hallelujah Chorus to come out of his mouth. I'm telling you it was he was that much like Mom, even down to the vacant gaze in his eyes, that until recently I thought was merely the way my own mother looked as Alzheimer's claimed her brain. But apparently the disease looks the same on every face. Before we left this evening, Grampie had agreed with our decision that it was evening not morning--honestly, it was like we'd had a meeting and voted on it and he was going along with the majority vote!. So he decided he'd go to bed. Began removing his clothes right there in his wheelchair, while I was sitting in the room. The real Grampie would never have done that--he was private for himself, and respectful of me. This old man doesn't even notice such things. If he needs to undress, or use the urinal, he's just going to do so. No matter who might be around.
It unnerves us a little.
More than a little.
When we got home, Beve asked me how far along I think Grampie is. He's about where Mom was when she moved into the Alzheimer's unit once and for all. "The journey is just beginning," Beve answered. "No," I told him. "The journey began years ago. We've been in it a long time. It's just that every turn in the road is a little harder."
Yep, I've been down this exact road before; I recognize the terrain.
And I hate that.
I intended to write a post about the Nazarene today. In fact, I wrote that post. It's all set to be posted. But this is the glaring reality of our lives--this and nothing else. Every now and then I watch a TV show where some young couple, right in the midst of caring for their children is completely overwhelmed, and is blessed by the generosity of others because of the work they're doing. Today I happened to see the Ellen show, where a young at-home mom was given a car. I usually feel very glad for these harried, overwhelmed people, and I thank God for the bounty of our lives. But today, I thought of the heavy lifting we've been doing. No, make that Beve. This fall, the very heavy lifting has been his. At times I wonder how we can continue in this. How he can get up each day, face the needs of the damaged kids who are his people group for seven hours and the elders who take up the evenings. Day after day after day.
There are moments when I think we can't do it another moment. Times when I want this cup taken for us. How much can a person endure?
God knows. God knows the difficulties with the elders and the complicating difficulties with family members. He knows what how much we can endure far better than we do. Most of the time, when I think about the Incarnation, I think about Jesus' work on the cross. And certainly that was the primary goal of God becoming a man. However, He also came to teach love and demonstrate it in action. "LOVE!" He said. And He showed it. Put no limits on it. "Do good to those who hurt you." "Love one another as I have loved you." And serve. The Messiah was called 'the Suffering Servant.' (See Isaiah 52: 13-53:12) It isn't merely through His death that He suffered, but also through serving beaten up, sin-mangled humanity. The Incarnation teaches us how then we shall live.
And that Incarnation can be/should be/will be worked out in our lives through the Holy Spirit. He doesn't merely teach us how to live, He doesn't merely practice it as model, He gives us the means by which we can live it ourselves. Holy Spirit come. Again I ask, give me power to know how wide and high and broad and deep is Your love, and to practice it--to the elders and to all those You put in my life.