I’m still learning…

My brother and I spent a week together visiting our 98-year-old mother. She lives by my sister, and we travel halfway across the country to see Mom as often as we can. She has dementia, so now when we visit, she can’t always remember our names. Often, now, she can’t name her brothers and sisters, her children, or her husband by name. But, she knows “we are her people.”

Mom hears our voices and knows that we are the visitors she was expecting. She can no longer see our faces, she doesn’t remember our names, she doesn’t have a timeline that she can remember any more–but she knows “we are hers.” And she knows we will visit. And that brings us joy.

Sometimes, afternoons especially, she has trouble “peeking out of the window” through the heavy curtains her that cause shadows in her mind–dementia is a cruel disease in so many ways. When that happens we start singing a hymn or reciting Psalm 23, the Lord’s prayer, or Lesson 1 in the Heidelberg catechism. She joins in–the words just flow and can that lady sing!–and when she does, Mom is right there with us again.

You know what that tells me? She has never forgotten and can still reveal to others the very center of her being: “I am not my own, but I belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” Her mind plays tricks, it shuts her in gray mist, but through it all she knows she belongs to God, and I cry in delight and thankfulness at God’s mercy and grace to her.

You should see the delight on her face when we talk about the room that Jesus has prepared for her in his heavenly mansion. Her name is on the door, there are flowers and her favorite hummingbirds. And I ask her, “Can you imagine the beautiful music we’ll all be singing?” She replied, “Not just singing. We’ll have a job we really like to do every day.” That hit me. Jesus will have just the right purposeful mission that she can’t wait to engage it–one that fits the very design he had for her before the world was formed.

But His light sends out rays from the center of her being even when her brain is not working the way it was designed to work. Her caregivers love the way she shines, even through cantankerous moments. Her fellow residents respond to her kindness. Her temple body is showing its age, but despite the crumbling walls, God’s light still shines in and through her.

Let me still be learning from my mother’s example.

Creator God, who formed me from dust, breathe in me again. Give me a new imagination to perceive fresh possibilities to shine Your light today. I am a sinner, and sometimes my si-shutters block Your light from streaming out from me–out of the windows of my temple of Your Holy Spirit–that is me. But You have promised to keep pouring the light of Your love into me. Let me be an open vessel of Your love, so that I am so full that it splashes out in twinkles of light on all those around me. Amen.

As I write this, I am listening to music by Hildegard of Gingen, a visionary abbess, writer and composer, who was born in 1098. At age of 8 she was sent to live at a Benedictine monastery with the abbess. She had received visions from childhood, but didn’t share them until she was in her early 40s when a vision of God told her to do so. She wrote volumes of her visionary expriences, offering a poetic, image-rich description of God and God’s relationship with humanity.

“God’s throne is, indeed, the divine eternity in which God alone abides, and all living creatures are, so to speak, sparks frm the radiation of God’s brilliance, and these sparks emerge from God like the rays of the sun.”

Hildegard of Bingen, Vision Four: 11, Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, with letters and Songs, ed. Matthew Fox (Sante Fe, New Mexico: Bear & Company, 1987), eBook.

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