by Amanda Martin
April 1, 2015
John 15:12-13: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Every Wednesday morning in a local Assisted Living Home sits a healthy man in his mid-70s. He is nicely dressed and pleasantly smiling at those who speed past with trays of food, linens, sanitizing supplies, and blood pressure monitors. Staff are busy cleaning up remaining breakfast from residents, desperately working to get confused and sickly people to the bathroom, although it is often too late. He is at work as well, moving slowly with great attention to detail feeding his wife applesauce. Some mornings he is reading her the paper, softly stroking her hand, speaking as if they were alone in an intimate conversation.
His wife says nothing in return, does not meet his eye, or actively respond to his presence. She is in the advanced stages of dementia and has not called him by name in a year. This is not to say that she does not know he is there, she is calm and seemingly at peace. It is a painful yet beautiful example of real friendship. The man is always present with his wife, attending to her needs, anticipating what she might want. He asks for nothing in return, he is content to be available to her.
He nods gently at me as I enter, politely acknowledging but remaining attentive to his number one priority. I selfishly choke down a deep breath to calm my nerves and try my best to focus on residents, not the smell. I am only there for a little while, to share music, involve residents in dance, song, and reminiscence then I am off to the next group. He remains by her side. Tapping her lovingly, “…that was a good one, wasn’t it dear”.
Lent has traditionally been an uncomfortable time for me. It is so painful to watch this man I love and trust go through such agony. He suffered so, and I’d rather he didn’t have to do it for me. It has taken some maturing to realize if I truly love Jesus, want to follow his example and live in remembrance of him I must get over my own “comfortability”. I want to be a friend to him, to honor him, not to turn away in fear. Perhaps in this way I can better learn to serve those in need, serve God, and in the face of fear fully live a Christian life.
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for Jesus’ example of friendship. He did not turn away from pain, he lived it. This holy week as we acknowledge his pain help us to honor and love him more. Through Jesus’ powerful example may we too live through hardship and suffering knowing full that contentment in doing your good work. Amen