“Pastor, they told me not to cry!” Helen cried frantically when I answered the phone. “There are six bibles on my night stand, can you pick them up?” She screamed for a moment, bellowed loudly and incoherently as if she was fighting off a stranger in her room. I told her, “You’re ok!” “They’re telling you not to cry because it's ok. You’re alright. We got you.” Helen’s mind had been slipping the last year with dementia, alzheimers or whatever we call it these days. It seems we barely know ourselves. Black swan. I buried her husband a couple of years ago. I still remember us processing out with the body and she fell against me saying, “I’ve lost him.” “He's not lost,” I said.
She was a widow with no kids. We think we are more sophisticated now then biblical times, but the ladies still quietly call her cursed as they chat on their ancient phones. This past week her brother and social worker finally decided to place her in a home. Unfortunately, it is an hour away from her church and hometown.
“I don’t know where I am,” she said, frightened.
“That’s ok because we know where you are,” I told her, “Jesus knows where you are.”
“Yeah, they have a chapel service here. I miss your services. There’s a man in my room with mice.”
“We’ll come to you. Don’t worry.” I assured her.
She asked me to pray that she would stop crying. We prayed about that and other things. Then we prayed the Lord’s gift to us. From a secret place deeper than the muscle tissue of her brain she spoke Jesus’ words. Words He planted there long ago.
She slipped in and out of coherence. But it was all ok. The Almighty God has her. And He is quite coherent. He still has all His senses. He will not drop her, lose her or forget about her. Just as he did not forget about Lazarus who slept or the people of Israel who were enslaved! Even while she will slowly forget about so much. She herself will not be forgotten. And He will send His church to keep visiting her, even while she slowly forgets who we are. It’s all ok.
I suppose we wish we could have selective dementia. Where we could forget placing those lilies on our child’s casket. Or we could forget that night of lust that broke our marriage. Or that painful word spoken behind our backs by someone whom we thought was our friend. Come Lord Jesus. Come final spring and resurrection when we will forget all of that! Come holy amnesia.
Still aren’t we all a little mentally ill, suffering a slight dementia, falling in and out of reasonableness? We sure look like it sometimes. Repent. Sometimes we even forget where we are and Whose we are. With a million demons knocking on our skull and fleeting lusts, greeds, and angers, battling in our hearts. Like Helen, we become frantic, too, stressed by what’s going on around us. For moments, we let the night seep back in and we feel like Helen or Joseph K. in Kafka’s timeless existential novel, "The Trial."
Praise God that while we struggle to remember, He does not! He knows where we are at all times. He is the Good Shepherd. If He laid down His life for us, surely He will lead us to those green pastures.
Though we are haunted by our sins, God remembers them no more as they are camouflaged by the blood of His Son!
So do not be afraid as we all slowly slip away. You may go gentle into that good night. As our bodies decay and fail us and our brains turn to mush, you will be ok. He knows where you are. And that's all that matters. The Son has already risen. The day begun. He will awaken you and finally your mind will be right.