Sunday, March 31, 2013

When it feels like it's still Saturday....

So, this morning, I woke up early, cut my Sabbath "quiet time" short so I could make the 25-minute drive to Shannondale Nursing Home to get my mom ready and take her back to First Baptist Concord for Easter service. 

Earlier this morning in a Facebook post, I had boldly reminded myself and anyone who chose to read it that "a far-off battle" has made all the difference, even in a world that feels like it is still under the control of a foreign, oppressive power. And, on the drive, I had been singing loud and strong: 
"Hear the bells ringing, they're singing that we can be born again.
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing Christ is risen from the dead...."

As I walked through Shannondale's front doors, I gave my best "Happy Easter" to everyone in the lobby, then got on the elevator and hit the 5th floor button. But, for some reason, that elevator stopped on every single floor and, when the doors opened, this was pretty much the scene I saw on floors 1, 2, 3 and 4: 

By the time I arrived on the 5th floor, my smile was gone, my song was silent, and my heart was heavy. It no longer felt like Easter Sunday--and the power of the Resurrection seemed far away. The faces I saw and the heart inside me felt like it was still some sort of perpetual Saturday. 

But, as I stepped off the elevator and saw my mama's waiting face...already dressed in a winter sweater...I tried to push my sudden sadness aside. (The physical activity involved in getting my wheelchair-bound mama anywhere is a great distraction to whatever is going on inside my head at the moment.) 

After getting her wheelchair loaded in the back and getting her in her seat and buckled in, she and I head toward the Easter hymns and the ancient greeting and response of  
"He is risen!...He is risen indeed!

Along the 20-minute drive, her frequent, repeated question began to grate: "Today's Saturday, right?" which I reply, "No, mom, today is Sunday...Easter Sunday...we're going to church." 

Well, we get there...and, miracles of miracles, there's actually a handicapped parking space...(so my mood begins to brighten). Then, a kind usher finds a pew where I can easily park mom's wheelchair next to my pew. Then, my two handsome sons actually find mom and me...and sit beside me on the pew. 

My emotions are always a bit ragged on Easter...overflowing with gratitude for the cost of my salvation and for the promise of eternal life because of the Resurrection. And, I don't remember the last time I made it through a Sunday service without wishing I had more tissues. Easter Sunday...was some sort of powerful parable that will probably take me awhile to "read." With my beautiful, gifted, Jesus-loving husband in front of me playing in the orchestra; my two beautiful, gifted, Jesus-loving sons on one side of me; and my beautiful, gifted, Jesus-loving, stroke-and-Alzheimer's-damaged mother on the other side...well...quite honestly...I was a puddle. 

Then, as if God wasn't already speaking loudly enough, Pastor Avant began to talk about one of life's hardest "stones" to deal with--the "stone" of Alzheimer's. He read two incredibly beautiful letters from husband to wife...and from wife to husband...who were locked in the battle with this disease. Then, my youngest son, who was sitting closest to me, reached over and patted my knee, and....well...I just lost it...the kind of crying that's just plain old ugly. 

But, service ended. I recovered. I wheeled mom out. My three beautiful, gifted, Jesus-loving guys and I took her to Cracker Barrel where she ate her favorites--beans and greens, okra and cole slaw. Then, I loaded her back in the van, and we headed to the place that has come to represent all that is "fallen" to me--sickness, brokenness, loneliness, dementia, death. 

On the way, she asked many times, "When am I going to see the boys?"...."When am I going home?"...."Today's Saturday, right?"....

And, at that point, it sure felt like that in-between time...when those first followers must have felt like the enemy had their hopes and dreams had been nailed to the same piece of ragged wood as their Rabbi. 

But, as I drove, I remembered two of Pastor Avant's words after he read those sad, beautiful letters--"God remembers." 

And, when my mama can't remember that it's Easter...when she can no longer remember the cross and the Resurrection... can no longer remember the words of the long-sung hymns...can no longer remember our names...her name...God remembers.

And, even though...for now...she is locked in some sort of perpetual-in-between Saturday, not remembering that it's Sunday...not remembering that it's Easter...unaware of the Resurrection and all that it day...she will. His voice will remind her. His voice will call her name--Joyce--in a way that heals and resurrects her broken body and mind. 

And, when she hears Him, all the sorrow, hurt and hardness, which sometimes led her nearly to despair, will be burned away by the joyful brightness of His love and light.

"Love never dies. 
Inspired speech will be over some day;
praying in tongues will end;
understanding will reach its limit. 
We know only a portion of the truth,
and what we say about God 
is always incomplete.
But when the Complete arrives,
our incompletes will be canceled….
We don’t yet see things clearly.
We’re squinting in a fog, 
peering through a mist.
But it won’t be long 
before the weather clears
and the sun shines bright!
We’ll see it all then,
see it all as clearly as God sees us,
knowing him just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do
to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love."
(1 Corinthians 13:8-13 The Message)

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