It’s Sunday night, and mentally I’m preparing for work tomorrow. At 9 a.m., I’ll see my first patient, and hopefully by the time 5 p.m. arrives I will have seen five or six of my patients. Most of them have dementia. Most of them don’t remember me from week to week. Most of them don’t remember where they are, or who the president is. They can’t remember what they ate for lunch five minutes ago, or even how to brush their own teeth. They don’t have a clue what is going on in the world, all of the division, the hatred, the violence, or the ugly political climate. Thank God. Sometimes, I think that is nothing short of God’s mercy.
But other times, when a moment of clarity miraculously (and I mean – miraculously), comes along… and someone is able to express that they hurt someone 30 or 40 years ago, and they share just how badly and remorseful they feel, I wonder again…. Is this too, mercy?
I’ve watched a lot of people die bad deaths, and I’ve watched many have very good deaths, too. We wonder why sometimes God lets people stay here as long as He does, because after all – it’s God who decides when we’re leaving. We have far less control over that than we’d like to believe. Maybe that’s mercy, too.
Maybe when we wonder why, why, why our loved ones must suffer as long as they seem to … Maybe, just maybe that time is simply God’s mercy, waiting for them to say, “I’m sorry for hurting you.” I have a tendency to feel badly when my patients can’t remember their sons and daughters, but what if… what if God is allowing someone to focus on all the right things that are still in there, so He can get their attention narrowed down to the most important things, so that they can say something like, “I am so sorry I hurt _______.” Maybe He’s just trying to bring them to repentance, and then peace, and then bring them home… I mean – I just find it really peculiar that God would remove any memory of the nonsense in the world, yet allow them only to remember to forgive someone, or to apologize to someone…. How can I witness this, and not ponder it?
My friend witnessed just this last week, and we enjoyed a long conversation pondering it together. Then, I came home and called someone. I told them I was sorry for something that happened a long time ago. If you don’t think you can learn something from someone with dementia, you’re wrong. In fact, in an instant you could have a stroke and be unable to open your mouth and tell your children or your spouse that you love them ever again, or that you’re sorry for something you’d said or done. I don’t want to be tormented by that if it should ever happen to me.
So tomorrow morning, I’ll lace up my “school shoes,” and let my patients teach me more about what really matters, and then I’ll ponder those things some more, and remember to tell those I love just how much I love them. And I’ll wonder what else they’ll have to teach me in the months ahead. I love my Mondays.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV