Yesterday my friend H. told me a powerful story of his mother’s final days. The medical professionals had called him and his siblings to her bedside because, based on their experience, along with her labored breathing and lack of consciousness, her time was very short. They didn’t expect her to live through the day when they called her family to her side. But she lived another five days, as I recall his story. H. smiled as he recounted those days shared at her bedside. They were among the strongest bonding moments he ever had with his siblings. He spoke of laughter and tears, stories and prayers. “I believe she gathered us together for that special time,” he said. It was her final gift to her children.
I loved his story. I always love what H. shares; he’s one of those people who has a way with words. But this story in particular grabbed me. It wasn’t a conscious decision that his mother made to linger for five days before departing this world. It wasn’t her mind, her thought processes, that allowed her to give her children that gift. H. gives testimony, I believe, to the fact that God is at work within each of us. God’s Spirit nudges and moves us, lights a fire within us, or stops us in our tracks. The Holy Spirit is that indescribable, uncontainable force that is more real than physical items around me, than the figurative brick wall in front of me. And that Spirit moves within every human being: a newborn baby, an elderly man with dementia, a twenty-year old college student, or a special needs teenager who is unable to look you in the eye. Cognitive abilities don’t limit the power of the Holy Spirit.
None of us know for sure how to explain things like a loved one outliving a doctor’s prognosis and creating space for deeper relationships among her children. Maybe it was coincidence. But I don’t think so. I believe God is at work among and within us all. And… here’s why H.’s story grabbed me. Most of the glorious stories about the movement of God’s Spirit involve conscious decisions to follow, to cooperate with God. Whether it’s Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus or Moses at the burning bush, we hear sermons over and over again about our conscious, mental decisions to follow God. But H.’s story is about his mother’s partnership, her cooperation with God’s Spirit (Spirit = breath) to continue to breathe even after she had closed her eyes and silenced her voice forever.
No, she did not have dementia, but she was 96 years old and her time had come. But how beautiful that her final gift was this holy partnership between her (her laboring lungs and tired heart and exhausted muscles) and God’s Holy Spirit. It was not a conscious decision to hang on for five days, but it was nevertheless her gift.
Oh the possibilities that creates! In what ways do we all cooperate with God without even realizing it? And once I lose the ability to make a decision, to recall a decision, or to even care about a decision, there is yet hope that I in my bodily form may yet cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ways I can’t imagine.
A few days ago when I went to pick up my mother from the Alpha House, one of the residents was walking around giving everyone hugs and saying that she loved them. This woman often is agitated and appears uncomfortable. But that day she was spreading love! Perhaps she too was responding to a nudge from the Spirit that those of us with busy minds might find a way to ignore.
Of course, I don’t know this for sure. Maybe the affectionate woman was on a new medication. Maybe H.’s mom simply had a very strong heart muscle and it wouldn’t stop beating. I don’t know. But a new hope was stirred within me as I heard his story. Hope. Faith. Honestly, going into this dementia journey, I think I’d rather carry hope and faith than knowledge. Knowledge won’t last long when dementia calls. Hope and faith, I am trusting, will be with me until the end.
2 thoughts on “Carrying faith and hope…”
I love your heart. It shines in your writings. God is using you.
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Wow. Powerful. I love you.