December 16, 2008

Lost in the Memories

Last week, R and I participated in one of my favorite traditions, Christmas Communion Away. Deacons visit shut-ins from our church family and have a mini-Christmas service. Family members are encouraged to take part in this special time, and it's always a blessing.

This year, we went to visit a widow I know but haven't seen in quite some time. Mrs. Mary's husband sang in the choir with us. Such a sweet couple. He died several years ago and Mrs. Mary is now in a nursing home. When we got there, R's Deacon partner had already arrived. Mrs. Mary greeted us warmly, and they told us they were chatting about her husband. When I asked her how long he'd been gone, she said he'd been working in Pennsylvania for about 6 months now, but she gets letters and phone calls from him nearly every day.

My heart started to break right there in the hallway.

Mrs. Mary went on and on about how she's having to do things she's never had to do before...writing checks and paying bills. We talked about how he's taking good care of her, how he loved singing in our choir and misses it, and how his co-workers look after her. I could hardly contain the tears.

During our service, Mrs. Mary read the Scriptures aloud, sang and prayed. For those brief moments, she seemed quite lucid. When we were through, I spotted a photograph taken on their wedding day and a plaque commemorating their 50th anniversary. Mrs. Mary spent more than half a century caring for the love of her life. She's still doing it. She told me she knows he isn't eating right on the road and she wants to go back with him so she can cook him decent meals. She misses him terribly, and wants him home soon.

She doesn't realize he already is.

What first struck me as terribly sad now seems like a gift. After you've been married that long, how do you get through the day without your spouse? How do you get out of bed, knowing you're not going to see your beloved again in this world? How do you make yourself content with that? Perhaps the Lord knew that Mrs. Mary wouldn't be able to face life without the man who'd taken such good care of her for so long. Maybe He knew that every day her heart would shatter under the weight of such heavy grief, so He's allowed her to escape the burden and pain. Instead of living out her life without her mate, Mrs. Mary is lost in the memories of a lifetime of love.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
~Song of Solomon 8:6


Jillian, Inc said...

Oh that's so true. It breaks my heart as well. My dad lived his last 7 years like that (though I don't think he was "taking care" of my mom as they had been divorced for years). It was both sad and a little happy to see him living his last years as a young man instead of sick and feeble as he really was.

Joanne (The Simple Wife) said...

Wow, Melissa, what a blessing for you all to have spent that time with Mrs. Mary--and thanks for sharing such sweet thoughts!

Love you dearly,


much2ponder said...

This is bitter sweet as you say. Dementia is hard to deal with, but perhaps it in some form it can been seen as a merciful way for the Lord to allow this women to remember what she does. It is sad though.

I often visit a friend in a nursing home. Sometimes she recognizes me and some times she doesn't. She always seems to be aware that I am someone who cares about her and she seems to take comfort in that. It was a difficult transition to move from knowing her with all of her facilities to knowing her today. Now I just enjoy the moments we have together knowing she is not likely to remember I was even there. It is the joy in the time we have that matters:) I miss her the way she was, but love her the way she is.

kittyhox said...

So sad, yet so beautiful.