Some have called today “Holy Saturday” the day between Good Friday and Easter. According to Christian tradition, the body of Jesus lay in solemn stillness within the tomb. The disciples(now ten, with the deflection of Judas and John taking care of Mary in another place) huddle behind locked doors for fear of their own lives. For them, Jesus is dead and gone. They never anticipated that Jesus would rise; as far as they knew or believed, he was dead and gone. There is no record that any of them took care of Christ’s dead body. They left that to the women and two “silent” disciples, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. The disciples were not dead but gone. They had disappeared, frightened for their own lives, as they wondered what would become of them with Jesus dead and gone. No message came to those bewildered disciples that they would meet Jesus again, so they are abandoned to the darkness of lost identities and uncertain hopes. It seems to me that this “Silent Saturday” is symbolic of those souls afflicted with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.They too, are stricken with their identity taken from them, and all hope lost in the darkness of dementia. Their silence at times is deafening. Yet, as the disciples bewildered belief was still there, so are the souls of people with Alzheimer’s. From the tombs of their despair they wait for the word, Jesus spoke to Lazarus, ” Come forth!” And they will, to a new world of hope and peace. Silent Saturday, the day when Jesus seemed to be dead and gone, was an awful day. But it was only a day, yet it must have seemed like an eternity that would never end. Yet, there was a tomorrow!
In my last blog I mentioned how joining CLERGY AGAINT ALZHEIMER’S was like widening my circle of friends like a ripple event of a steam. Since then the water’s ripples grow ever wider. I have met contact with Collin Tong, whose book Into the Storm, was so powerful, I could not put it down. Twenty three writers from across the United States share their stories as caregivers for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He writes that the demands of 24/7 caregiving means “one’s own physical and emotional well-being is often given short shrift.” I have see all too often that the care giver giver “gives out” before the caregiver. This book needs to read by all who care for this disease that robs loved ones of their identity.
I made contact with Jade C. Angelica, author of Where Two Worlds Touch. This book will give caregivers the reassuring words of a person who has been there and can offer counsel and grace to all who bear the burden of endless days and sleepless nights caring for someone with this disease. She has also begun a Healing Moment Alzheimer’s Ministry that goes beyond the medical model to a spiritual model that sees persons with dementia with new eyes. Finally, my gifted brother has written a poignant memoir “Mother’s Day (and Life). Our mother, Margaret Lyon died after a bitter struggle with Parkinson’s dementia at the age of 66. John concludes by writing ‘Maybe one day we can stop or treat this terrible disease for so many others who are or will suffer.” That is our hope. If you want to read John’s Memoir, go to http://DrJohnCMorgan@wordpress.com. Like the ever flowing stream of life itself, the ripples of persons concerned and active in this fight against Alzheimer’s flows on.
“Sometimes like a quiet stream, that meanders, sparkling through a sun-dappled vale, Truth flows gently, Lord, to comfort and to heal.
My books are like a ripple effect, taking me downstream to situations unknown. Recently, our book, No Act of Love Is Ever Wasted: The Spirituality of Caring for Someone with Dementia was read and used by Linda Everman Because of the book Linda contacted me about a new advocacy group, CLERGY AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S, which I joined as a founder. 46 years ago our mother died from Parkinson’ dementia, with little support except from her family. Three years ago our sister, Patricia, died from vascular dementia. For many years I was a nursing home chaplain, offering care to person with this dreadful disease. I have led conferences on caring for persons with dementia, and I continue to co-facilitate our Alzheimer’s support group. Despite these meager efforts. and now unable to drive, I stay deeply concerned about this disease so many shove under the carpet. Many residents entering retirement communities now have some form of dementia. Family members stay in denial and think it is simply “senility,” either keeping them at home or “placing” them in retirement communities. Sadly they ignore the issue and often prevent their loved ones from getting treatment. What adds to my concern is the lurking fear now that I am 85 years of age, I stand a 50% chance of getting this disease of the mind, as the APOE gene is in my family gene pool. So, now I have a new mission – working with this new Advocacy group, recruiting clergy friends and others to join in this battle for the mind. I am mindful of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking.” If any of you, my readers, join my concern and want more information about this advocacy group, please respond or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org We need to STAMP out Alzheimer’s and give hope to 5.4 million Americans diagnosed with this mind robbing and always fatal disease and,and 15.4 million unpaid caregivers. I BEG YOU,GET INVOLVED!!!
We have had six deaths here in 3 weeks, some dear friends, and last week I made out my funeral plans down to the last detail. I guess death was really on my mind. Last night I had a vivid dream, so real I woke with a start and remembered most of it. It took place somewhere in North Carolina, as two groups planned to make a trek though the woods. One group from Davidson College took one trail, but my brother-in-law Drue (who died some time ago) took the other trail and led the way .I was so scared, as if in a petrified forest, but Drue urged me on. We walked for miles until darkness descended on us. Finally dawn came, and we came to a junction in the road where I saw an incredible sunset. Its beauty dazzled me. and I was awestruck, enveloped in deep contemplation. We climbed to the top of a a steep bridge where we could have a better view. Drue went on, closer to the sunset, but I hesitated. When he returned we hit the trail again and came upon a small village with strange people I had never seen before. Drue seemed to know them and introduced me to them, and strangers became friends. After we dined with them, we walked on. I had no idea where I was or where we were going, but Drue knew the way and kindly told me to keep walking. We passed a familiar building (Montreat?) but this was not our destination. Finally we came to a clearing with open space and Drue urged me on. We arrived at a beautiful place, surrounded by lovely trees, verdant flowers, and flowing streams of water. We had arrived and I told Drue I wanted to make that walk again, but this time take my camera. He smiled. Then, whether from my sub-conscious mind or from another world, I really don’t know, I clearly heard Drue say, “I go to prepare a place for you.” It was so surreal. The gates of eternity guard whatever lies beyond, and few beams of light escape through the crevices. But this dream was too real to dismiss as fantasy. Drue had been a Christ-figure in his loving care of his wife, my sister, before she died. He had risen to heights I could never know, (bridge) and I knew I had more “work” to do before I would reach such heights. It was such an affirmation of life beyond life, and the blessed home we celebrate this Easter.
A WONDERFUL GIFT
I sat in silence beside the bedside of a dying friend. He had a remarkable full life. He fought in the battle of the Bulge and earned the Purple Heart and many other medals. Later he was active in the community, sponsoring fields for athletic encounters, and serving on the School Board. Now this gallant man neared the end of his journey . His daughter, who kept constant vigil, asked me if I knew anyone who might like any of Jim’s clothes. “I would love to give some of then to a needy person.” I mentioned Good Will and then I remembered Bill. Bill has no family close by and lives on a meager budget and rarely had any new clothes. Bill loves to walk in the neighborhood and often I saw traipsing through the fields and streets in an old jacket. I took Bill to the closet and he selected a leather jacket, a #7 Ben hat and a shirt. As we walked down the hall Bill said, “Now, I can throw away my old, tattered jacket.” He looked “spiffy” and happy.I thought of Jesus’ words, If anyone would take your coat, give him a cloak also.” Jim’s leather jacket will live on and walk the streets where he lived. .
Old age can be a very bad time, especially if you have no purpose or reason for getting out of bed in the morning, or bereft of real friends. . I’ve been blessed since my and dreams. Friends have been a great help, especially through emails. My friends are more of a gift than an achievement. Old friends from former years often surface and bring real joy. I often talk with Jack Suddreth, a friend in North Carolina. We have been close friends for over 40 years and distance has not diminished our friendship. Often old students reappear like the Old Shaman, David Seymour, who reads my blogs and responds! Recently some new friends appeared. Linda Everman from California is a tireless advocate for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.Through her work, I have become a founder of Clergy Against Alzheimer’s. Through a mutual friend, I made contact with Ed Zinkiewicz from Nashville, Tennessee. I have just reviewed his great book, Retire to Play and Purpose, which I strongly recommend to anyone planning retirement or in the early stages of this life passage. The words of W.B. Yeats ring true, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I hard such friends.”
I had not been diligent recently in writing my blog, since I was experiencing a writer’s block and needed a welcome break. Then last Sunday at a small church, a woman from Florida was visiting her “old” church and told me she was a faithful reader of my blogs. So that motivated me to take up my pen and write again. During this hiatus. I went through all my blogs and trashed all but 40. That was my first Spring cleaning of the season.The advent of Spring usually brings some real energy for spring cleaning. My files have been paper thin in recent days as I’ve tried to get rid of old “stuff.” When I look at some of my old sermons I am astonished that I actually spoke those words, and consigned them to oblivion. Amazing what you accumulate even when you downsize to come to a retirement community and face limited space. So, my photographs became the next victim of my spring cleaning. This is a great time to clean the “house” of our photos. This is more than discarding photos that have outlived their value. Val Isenhower, author of “Meditation on Both Sides of the Camera, says, “It involves cleaning the eye of our heart.” You ask yourself what drew you to take that photo? How does this image affect you now? She also suggests just clean the dust in your mind by going out with your camera with no agenda in mind except to enjoy photography as a spiritual practice. At times it has been serendipity as you see images you never anticipated. The monk Thomas Merton was great at that. I glanced through the travel journal with pictures I wrote/took when we were in England/Wales in the summer of 2005. Images of Tintern Abbey, the village at Monmouth, and the little Welsh village with the little train evoke thoughts of sheer joy. I cleaned out my photo books, but the 2005 trip to the UK, the 2000 trip to Scotland, and the photos of the grandchildren will escape the trash bin. What spring cleaning will you do this Spring?