“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31: 6).
A few years ago while working as a chaplain in a care facility for people with complex care needs God showed up in a special way. Healthcare is a busy, stressful and bureaucratic system. Often time’s patients may be unconsciously overshadowed by the tasks at hand. There is always work to be done that is deemed necessary. There are also times where we may miss prompts from God that remind us of what really matters.
The facility I worked in was home to about one hundred mainly elderly people. This included a locked area housing people with Alzheimer’s. I spent about two hours each working day in the Alzheimer’s unit. It was a quiet area where music from a by-gone era played in the background through speakers in the ceiling.
Part of my routine was to sit with the residents during morning coffee time. We would sit together around a table. I enjoyed their company. Sometimes I would ask the folk simple questions like “how are you today?” The questions were usually followed by smiles or brief replies from the residents. Most of them no longer held conversations of any length. Needless to say, coffee table talk was minimal.
One morning while enjoying coffee and cookies with my tablemates a lady smiled at me from across the room. A nurse had informed me this lady loved to pray for people and liked to recite Scripture verses. This was all when she was able to communicate more often with people. I could see in her smile that she would still communicate from time to time.
Our introduction to each other came through a smile and a brief look in the eyes. Alzheimer’s had imprisoned her mind and she no longer conversed with anyone. It seemed most of the time she was in her own world. There were times where she was able to peek into the world once familiar to her. I was now about to share in one of these moments.
I walked over to her and said hello. Her name was Alice. I remembered what the nurse told me about the lady’s use of Scripture language. I said, “This is the day that the Lord has made…” She smiled yet again and said, “amen brother.” When I finished the line and said, “let us rejoice and be glad in it!” she said, “oh yes, yes, brother.” It was a brief connection. She then drifted off somewhere I couldn’t go. She smiled but her eyes turned from the sparkle I saw a few seconds ago to a look that did not seem to see me.
Teachers like Alice are real. Our teachers may impress on us the frailty yet beautiful gift of life. I hope I capture this in my writing.
If, one day I fall under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease and forget the world and those I love, I pray they will not forget me. I know God won’t. I can rest in that joy!