Today, I visited an old friend, Margaret, at a residence in Knowlton. Margaret's 90 and while a little frailer than this time last year, before she fell on ice and broke her hip, she's still her old self. Spunky. Fun. Honest. We had lunch together in the dining room - at the second sitting to give me time to arrive. We laughed afterwards. It was more exciting than first sitting has ever been.
One lady stripped her sweater off because she was hot, revealing her bra. The other lady at her table kept telling her it wasn't a nice thing to do. Other ladies at the table next to ours were muttering a bit meanly about it all. I said to Margaret, but loudly enough for them to hear, "We don't know what we'll be like."
And it's true, we don't. The woman who removed her sweater is a gentle soul who has severe memory loss. She was crying in a chair by the elevator earlier this morning and again at noontime. It reminds me of a woman at another nursing home a few years ago. I was visiting a friend, and there was a loud, pitiful and piercing cry from a woman down the hall, "GOD! Where are you? GOD!! Where are you?"
Elie Wiesel in Night tells the story of a youngster being hanged in the concentration camp, swinging and taking forever to die because he was so light. Everyone else was forced to watch. A man near Wiesel asked softly, "Where is God?" And the answer was, "God is there - hanging there."
After hearing the CBC radio documentary "Genius Born of Anguish : The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen" I discovered the book of the same title. Friends of his had a daughter, born prematurely, who died at four hours old in her parents' arms. Rebecca. Henri came to them immediately and stayed. One day he said to the Dad, in his tears, "Jonas, you know that Jesus lost Rebecca, too." Robert Jonas writes, "At first I did not understand what he meant, but then it penetrated deeper and deeper into my consciousness: there was a larger grief that I was participating in, and that it wasn't just my loss. He de-centered my grief; he shifted the attention from my ego to a larger space in which God was participating personally in my life, and in everything that i was experiencing, no matter how bad it was."
There's another book I read long ago called Why, God? An American Presbyterian pastor searches the Bible for meaning in the deaths of two of his children. At the end, he writes that there are no answers. The Bible doesn't provide answers. WE are the answers. We, in our love and compassion with others in their suffering, are LIVING answers to suffering. Incarnational theology?
Margaret and I chatted about old times, rabbits, churches, the world, Mum and Dad, her Mum and family. Nothing much. :-) Margaret was one of the fourth generation of children to be born at their Highland Farm in South Bolton. Or was it third, and her grandfather was brought as an infant? Hugs are good. Love is good. Stories shared .... all good.
To be continued ...