2015-03-29 - Faithfulness to Older Saints
Faithfulness to the Older Saints in Our Lives
Pastor Geoff's Ten Commandment Series, which will continue on Monday, has brought to my mind a myriad of ways that people faithfully honor mothers and fathers and other older folks, in their later stages of life.
A friend of mine was devoted to her mother, who passed away after many years of continuing decline, due to Alzheimer's. I, too, went to visit her mother frequently; ever since my first visit to a nursing home while in my teens, I have always considered the visitation of our saints there, to be a privilege and honor. To demonstrate some of the various means that God provides for our ministry to them, I will illustrate by describing the stages of decline of this brilliant scientific mind.
When I first would visit her in the early stages, she was in her own home, and she would proudly share from her garden. So her daughter and I would allow her to minister to us by handing us roses or a drink in the kitchen, just appreciatively accepting whatever she would do for us in love. We are all used to the saying, "it is better to give than to receive," but the reverse is true, as well, for it is also very important to let others give to us. We must accept these gifts of love as they are given, from a generous and thankful heart. When we well-meaningly say "that's not necessary" or for any reason refuse to accept it, we not only hurt the giver, but also deprive them of their own God-given ministry.
As time and the disease came further upon my friend J, she would be unable to talk much, but she still enjoyed seeing a familiar face. So both her daughter and I would simply respectively sit with her, and when she did say something, I would "go with the flow" and let her guide the conversation, wherever her mind took it.
My friend took care of her in J's own home, as long as humanly possible. But she was wearing herself out, trying to be vigilant during the nightly wandering etc. She knew that her mother would be broken-hearted if she let her wreck her own health, so she did research and found the best facility in a large metro area, and had her mother cared for there, in a locked-down but full-of-love Alzheimer's ward, that tried to balance the safety of the patients, with engaging them in conversations of everyday events. In our visits, we would participate in the games and conversations offered to the patients, exercising the patients' God-given brain cells.
After my friend's mother was no longer responsive to that kind of interaction, when we would visit, we would simply offer a ministry of presence. We sometimes weren't sure that she was aware of our presence, or knew whom we are - though several studies have shown that even when people are unable to let us know they can hear and understand us, they actually can. Sometimes the heart and mind are aware that their family and friends are present, but they are no longer able to express that recognition. We need to always assume they can hear us, and then we should depend on the Holy Spirit to get the message through to their spirits.
Regardless of whether the person knows us at that stage, God does know and wants us to honor them - and so we continue to do so. One time, God put a song in my mind, and I remembered that many studies have shown that even when a brain doesn't recognize people any more, familiar music is still there. So I would sing to her. In addition, our faithful visits provide a witness to the value of their lives. And we needed to continue, for those moments when she was even slightly aware that a loving face was there, and also because we needed to do it, in order to to honor God. My friend J lived a faithful life, and while we had her here on Earth, we were honored to be able to demonstrate the countless adaptable forms of ministry that God provides us, when we are visiting our family and friends in their later stages of life.
Janice P. Moser
All scripture references are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.