Years ago I learned about the two sides of the brain. the left side is the executive or cognitive function, which controls speech, reasoning, short term memory and the right side is the mystical or spiritual side, which is creative, artistic, intuitive. . This came to light as I continue my “project,” showing Lester Potts Jr’s Art to persons with dementia in our Memory Care Unit. I have learned that when the mind (left side) fails, the spiritual (right side) is still intact. Art becomes a way to turn on the right side of the brain,and creates connections when words fail.. In a real way the soul shines through the dysfunctional left side. When I showed showed Lester’s Potts’ drawing of two women taking their wash to the seaside, one woman who rarely spoke, suddenly exclaimed “That’s me! Every Monday I do the wash!” One simple story of how Art breaks through the tangled brain to create a connection. Dr. Danny Potts says it well, “Of all the losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease, I believe the greatest is the loss of relationship . . . We can maintain relationships with people who have Alzheimer’s, if we, ourselves are willing to enter their world and lovingly embrace. affirm and empower them where they are.. This will involve a willingness to see through the curtain of disease to find the person who still lives there.” This is my mission now!
It was 3:35 pm on April 12, 1945, 70 years ago. Yet, it seems as if it were only yesterday. I was playing street baseball on 37th St., Philadelphia when someone came running out of Hoffstein’ s drug store, crying “The President has died!” Although I was only 15 years old , I felt I had lost a member of my family. Gone was the amazing man who led this nation out of the Great Depression and guided us to victory in World War II. Even now I can hear his resonant voice in those wonderful Fireside Chats. I knew he had polio and had to fight against what seemed insuperable odds. But when I read James Robin’s book, The Man He Became: How FDR defied polio to win the presidency did I realize what he had to overcome. After the polio virus struck him down in 1921, he lost the use of his legs and never walked unassisted again ~~ He was never seen in his wheelchair, and with the help of hand crutches and leg braces, he managed to make his way to the podium and deliver those immortal words “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself ~~ nameless unjustified, unreasoning terror which paralyses every effort to convert retreat into advance.” Now, in my later years, I relate to FDR in a very small way. I can no longer walk unassisted, but have to rely on a walker. Falls have happened and I live in constant terror of other falls occurring and doing me in. I can no longer travel, restricted to short trips in the neighborhood. Roosevelt’s courage is an inspiration, as I remember the words of St. Paul. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” And . .. I am learning the value of other words of St. Paul. ” I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”
Opening Day of Baseball Season! Harbinger of Spring! I well remember walking home from high school on the Philadelphia streets, hearing the clatter of radios broadcasting opening day, and initiating a long season of endless losses for both Philadelphia teams. Taught me to be a good loser.!! Opening Day reminds me of endless memories. Riding subways and trolley cars to old Shibe Park with my sisters, sitting in the bleachers for 50 cents. Standing in line after the game getting autographs. Getting an autographed baseball from Robin Roberts as a gift for a dying boy in West Virginia. Getting excited over the renaissance of the Pirates as they made the playoffs two years in a row. What I do predict for the 2015 season? Will the Pirates make the playoffs again? Possibly. Will the Cubs make the playoffs? Not this year, but next. Will the Phillies lose 100 games? Definitely. Who will be the surprise team of 2015? the San Diego Padres, with their new explosive outfield and the addition of closer, Craig Kimbrell. Who will be in the World Series? Washington and Boston. Come October, we’ll see if these predictions come true.
It is good Friday and my mind goes back to the year 1944. It was April of that year, as World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific. D Day was just a few weeks away. I sat in the balcony of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, a 15 year old preacher’s kid. My task was to time my father’s meditations on Jesus’ 7 last words, as well as count the number of people who attended. Looking back at that experience, I realize it marked a significant moment n my spiritual journey ~~~ I learned that Jesus was always thinking of others even in his dying agony – forgiving those who murdered him, granting paradise to a penitent criminal, and showing compassion for his mother, Mary. Those seven last words were burned into my young mind and have been a source of grace ever since .Fast forward ten years to April of 1954. I was the minister of Moorefield Presbyterian Church, and my Dad, Howard Moody Morgan, was speaking on the 4th word of abandonment from the cross. He quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and these words have lived with me ever since.
Yea, once Emmauel’s orphaned cry, his universe hath shaken
It went up single, echo less, “My God, I am forsaken.”
It went up from his holy lips amid his lost creation,
That of the lost, no one should use those words of desolation.
Saved by grace? Not in the theological sense, but in a personal way. Yesterday, at 7:15 AM, I heard sirens and whistles and when I stepped to the front door to get the morning paper I was greeted by the man delivering the paper, who was soaking wet. I glanced at the ceiling (soon to fall) and noticed a heavy steam of water falling from above. Just then one of the Staff knocked on the door and told us to evacuate, which we did, and joined other residents,most of whom had been roused from sleep. As we made our way to the communal dining room , I noticed pieces of the ceiling had tumbled to the floor. Shades of Chicken Little! Apparently, a painter had hit the header of the sprinkler system, sending streams of water gushing into the 2nd floor hall and spilling through the ceiling to our 1st floor hall. Redstone to the rescue! Vicki Loucks, Vice President, took charge, kept us informed, and was a tower of strength. She called for help which came from other Redstone staff and who came in waves. No meager words of mine can express our appreciation for their aid. We learned that four residents on the 2nd floor had to be moved to vacant apartments. and our hearts went out to them After several hours we made it back to our apartment and heaved a sigh of relief that we had been spared. All that met us were 8 large fans to suck up the water in the hallway.It was just today that we realized the enormity of the event. The apartment right next to us was wiped out by water. Glad it was a vacant apartment! Everything had to be stripped, taken down and moved. Saved by grace! That could have been our apartment. So close it was scary. So I took pictures of everything we owned and quickly took out a renters insurance policy. As Noah expressed it in the play, Green Pastures. “It ain’t much. But its all I’se got!!!!!”
Just outside our apartment, near the chapel, is the Memorial Board. Every day as I walk past the Board, I pause to remember those who have died, and wonder when my name will appear there! The distance between those who have passed and me has narrowed. I am slowly running out of time. It has been a time of loss~~several residents here have died. Former mentors Malcolm Boyd and Fred Craddock have died, as has a friend and beloved physician in North Carolina Dr. Jane Carswell. I used to play “obituary baseball,” but no longer. Many of those who have passed are younger than I, and I wonder why I am left. This is Holy Week, as we walk with Jesus to his death, and our death is on our mind. Realizing the immediacy of death helps us arrange our priorities, and makes some things trivial, and helps us cherish the present. It’s all we really have, It is said that when Plato was very near death, a friend asked him to summarize his life work. Plato came out of a coma to answer, “Practice dying.”
Strange, isn’t it, that we really don’t realize some things of life until we experience them. Most of my life I have worked with handicapped people, either in wheelchairs, walkers, or other restrictions. But, yesterday it hit me full force . I participated in a Hospice Memorial Service, but since I could not process down the aisle with a walker, I had to sit by myself in the choir. It gave me a new perspective. The words, “Stand, if you are able,” struck me, as I was not able to stand. So I said my piece sitting down! My neuropathy has progressed to the point that I am totally reliant on my walker. When I leave his office the last words of my neurologist are: “Don’t fall!” Yeah, right. As I reflected on being handicapped, I rewrote the words of Jesus to Peter about being old, “When you are young you went wherever you wanted; but when you are old you can only go where your wife drives you, or where your walker takes you.” Waiting for the service (and wondering if the audience expected me to sing a solo), I thought of the amazing courage of Franklin Roosevelt, how his legs failed him from polio. How he was restricted by those braces on his legs! He was a profile of courage. People have been kind, and gracious. If had sung a solo it would have been, “I walked today where Jesus walked,” but I go there in my mind. I live in the hope that some day in the next life. “I will mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, and walk, not fall.:”