More snow! I ought to name this blog, “The View from an Igloo!” Just when we saw some streaks of green outside our igloo, 3-4″ of more snow soon covered it with a white blanket. Time for meditation and reflecting. Many years ago, when I was a “preacher,” I called for renewal of the church, for the greatest conversion then needed was not to the church, but in the church. It fell on deaf ears. It never happened. I recall quoting an old poem, “Outwardly splendid as of old, inwardly, spark less, void and cold Her force and fire all spent and gone, like the dead moon she shines on.” Now, much older, as the years have gone by, I rewrote that poem as if describing my life now. “Inwardly splendid as of old, outwardly, slowed down and on hold. Some of his force and fire is gone, but like a dimly burning wick he shines on.” I am not now what I was. But, the years have brought new life. I love the story of a woman who visited the studio of Michelangelo and watched him hacking away at precious marble. She was concerned with the growing number of chips on the floor, considering it a waste, but Michelangelo said, “The more the marble wastes, the more the statute grows.” Ah. yes!
The apostle Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in clay pots…..” But I found the treasure in the magnificent paintings of Lester Potts. Lester never painted a picture or showed any previous artistic ability or interest. But when he suffered Alzheimer’s and was a resident at Caring Days, he began painting, and in four years painted over a hundred water colors to the amazement of family and friends. Some of his art (including the cover) is found in the book, Seasons of Caring. Our activity director, Wendi, showed his art to some of the residents. One lady who rarely spoke, loved the painting of the snow man on skis, and chuckled as she said, “There he goes.” Lester’s son, Dr. Danny Potts, sent me a portfolio of many of his Dad’s paintings. Last Sunday I sat down with two ladies. locked down in our memory care unit, because they both had dementia. As we flipped through the pages, their faces brightened, as if Lester’s art resonated with their lives. One lady who loved his paintings of flowers said “Those flowers made me feel so good.” I knew the other lady had grown up on the coast, and she became fixated on Lester’s paintings of the sea and sea birds. She spied a lighthouse, and said “Yes. yes. I remember I climbed up a lighthouse at the coast when I was a little girl. …..” as the past became present and memory was rekindled. They went through the album a second time, enraptured by his paintings which not only expressed his life story, but, theirs, too. This will be a beginning of many visits to these dear souls with Lester’s paintings. “He, being dead,” yet speaks.” A genuine treasure without words.
In this cold bitter weather my heart goes out to street people, often without shelter in thjis bitter weather. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, that “inasmuch as we do it to the least of these, we do it to him,” then we are judged. At times I feel a mixture of blessing and guilt at having the warmth and security of this community. I recall my volunteer work at the Soup Kitchen in Lenoir, NC whee I served the poor and hungry. Some time ago, on the way to my brother’s wedding at Fourth Church, Chicago, I took the picture of the street person sleeping at the front door of the church. A symbol of our time. I also remember an epitaph from a poor man, ”
Here I lie at the chancel door
Here lie I because I am poor.
The farther in, the more you pay
Here lie I as warm as they,
Might be true in warm weather, but not in this frozen tundra.
Today marked an old man’s rite of passage. I gave up my driver’s license after 63 years on the road. It was no big deal since I had not driven in over 2 years after a minor accident. My neuropathy prevented my feet from getting from the pedal to the brake, so hence,a minor fender bender. But it was an eerie feeling as I walked down a long hall to the Penn Dot office. I had to sign many papers, and the agent sent a lot of stuff to Harrisburg, including my “old'” license. All I could mutter to myself was, “There it goes!” And *I did get an ID card! The agent asked, “Are you sure you don’t want a learner’s permit???” What for? At 86 years of age??? When we finished the transaction I think I amazed him when I thanked him and shook his hand. I am glad Alice Ann is my designated driver and I can be a passenger. I recall an old basketball coach once told us to be agile, mobile, and hostile. Those days are long gone. Now, I am only fragile. If the old license is faded, that’s on purpose. Old driver never die, they just fade away.
I’m becoming used to my “Davidson” walker. Except I grow weary of telling people my name is NOT Davidson, nor am I advertising a motorcycle! It’s Davidson College.Like shopping carts in a grocery store walkers are just part of the landscape in a retirement community, as common on snow on the ground in winter. In fact we visit Sherwood Oaks community, and they even had a room where walkers were parked as resident came to a meal. Valet service indeed! When we have meetings here residents line up their walkers along the wall and then carefully seat themselves at one of the tables It reminds me of those old western movies where the cowboys ride into town and tie up their horse up in front of the saloon and then they all go in for a drink! There are two kinds of walkers: What I call “KISS” type, (keep it simple, stupid), which I have, with a simple aluminum frame with wheels. Then there is the Cadillac version, with bright colors, equipped wtth hands brakes, fancy wheels, and a basket for the mail. Walkers use a real purpose, providing balance, and reduce the risk of falls. So I’m resigned to my walker for the rest of my life. However, unless another Stefan Currie comes along to put Davidson College on the map, I’ll continue to inform people about “Davidson: The Princeton of the South!.”
Victor Hugo wrote, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The time has come for people to have a talk about end of life issues.
Despite the resistance and denial of our mortality, it is time for open, honest discussion. People are living longer, and many adult children are becoming frustrated because their older parents have made NO END OF LIFE PLANS. Add to that, there are many bio-ethical issues surrounding end of life choices. Many hospices are being helpful in this regard. A chaplain of Via Quest Hospice, Darrell Knopp, has taken several groups of staff through my book, At the Edge of Life, and I hope this will be replicated. My concern is that churches become more intentional about offering groups foe persons in the congregation. My brother John C Morgan says that the subject of death is taboo in churches, except from the pulpit. Yet even pulpits are too often silent. However, our church 1st Presbyterian of Greensburg, Pa. has scheduled a five week class in March on End of Life. We will will use the document, Five Wishes, and some from my book, At the Edge of Life issues. So far, it is middle age adults who have shown interest, not only for themselves, but for their aging parents. Death comes to everyone sooner or later. Robert Browning wrote these words,
Just when we’re safest. comes a sunset touch. a fancy from a flower-bell
Someone’s death. A chorus ending in Euripides.”
“Someone’s death…. ” ~~ all to often in my life. It’s time to get intentional about end of life plans, not wait until it is too late.
Winter has come with a mighty blast, but nothing like the blizzard in New England. It’s strange not to see the sun, but only snow on snow.
Yet, I love the stillness, the sense of silence and solitude of these wintry days and nights.We had a great Poetry session yesterday, sparked by two poets, whose ages spanned 73 years. Joe, age 23, and Dorothy, age 96 are poets and shared some of their gems. They even inspired me to write a poem, reminiscent of my 48 years in the South,
There’s a sunny Southern land,
It’s there I want to be
Where snow hardly falls at all
But blue skies and green grass I see.
Yet when I view the silent snow
Through a window dimly seen
Its pristine beauty is like a dream.
In whatever state I may be,
To be content whatever I see
Shelley said it best, “O winter, if winter comes can spring be far behind.’ Or, in Albert Camus immortal words, “i(In the midst of winter,I found within me an invincible spring.” Indeed.