I have distinct memories of the morning, some forty-six years ago, when my father died. Every facet of that life-changing day is carved in heart and memory, and I expect always will be. Our family gathered in the waiting area outside intensive care, anxiously awaiting word. When the doctor arrived, my mother asked, “Is there any hope”? His kind (and wise) reply was, “We hope he’ll live forever.” For me, it was a moment of decision–insist on what was, or move forward with graceful acceptance. I give this as an example of the difference between hope and Hope: that is, the I want versus what God’s mercy ordains.
When viewed through the prism of hope, life is a shifting pattern of beautiful colors and images. Big picture Hope. The kind I can’t distort or negatively impact. It moves silently ahead, checking dark corners and clearing a path. You can lose your way, lose perspective, lose your wallet — lose any number of things — but my advice? Never lose Hope.
There’s an NBA player, who, when he disagrees with the ref and the foul shooter misses the free throws, yells “Ball don’t lie!” Well, I’m convinced mirror don’t lie either. A few days ago, a sister celebrated a milestone birthday. I was part of a small group singing at her celebration. It required a costume and my try-on went something like this, “Hmm, well, this neckline makes me look old; actually the sleeves on this one make me look old; you know, this color makes me look old.”
Reality dawns – mirror don’t lie – I’m aging. And why is that a bad thing? My maternal great grandmother was a wonderful presence in my life. When she came to visit, usually for a two-week stay, my mother would buy her favorite slippers. They were either purple or blue, made of felt, and purchased at the W.T. Grant Company. They fit nicely over swollen feet and my sisters and I loved helping Grandma put them on. She was from the farm: practical, wise, and without pretension. Her face had wrinkles, a stream of them, making her skin soft and interesting. White hair was tied back in a tidy bun and she wore dark dresses with white collars. She kept busy knitting warm mittens and surprised us with colors we hadn’t thought of. At least once during the visit, she baked old fashioned ginger cookies, so un-fancy you’d think them easy to bake. They’ve never been duplicated. She was beautiful in her simplicity and lived a long life, not trying to recapture anything. I hope to do the same.
I read a fascinating article in the Boston Globe. It was talking about new discoveries in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. “A growing body of research is confirming the anecdotal evidence that the arts can improve quality of life, reduce stress, and allow the person to better connect to the world.” I watched my grandfather struggle with the disease. He would search for the right word for a simple sentence and give up in frustration, yet he could pull out a memory from long ago that would make him laugh. I found the article encouraging. Who has never had a moment where a particular piece of music brings back a memory, or a painting or sculpture touches something in us that makes us cry, or watching a play gives us the feeling we’ve just been to another century and learned something about ourselves? How extraordinary that these creative artistic expressions teach us things that the mind cannot rationalize, but our bodies store the experience away until something calls it up. With such a power to heal, should we not then pour our hearts and efforts into every opportunity we have to share them?
“Miserere Mei, Deus” – Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness – the first line of the setting of Psalm 51 by Josquin dez Pres which the choir will be recording this afternoon. My friend is dying – what can I do for him? He is now doing his work with Jesus on going to the place prepared for him in heaven. I can be part of that journey by praising God with joy for his goodness and mercy to my friend.