Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Meditations From a Nursing Home

Every Monday I visit, along with a few students from the BSU of my college, the local nursing home. It has become one of the highlights of my week, and often one of the hardest points in my week.

I suppose the most poignant and hardest thing about a nursing home is the ever prevelant sense of death. It always stands, just out of sight usually, in some residents rising to confront. You know that almost all of the people whom you visit do not have many years- or even months or days- left upon this earth. Only a little longer, and then we will be severed. Sickness and the consuming of death is evident upon every face, and in their bodies: so often bound to a bed or wheelchair, whithered and wracked. Some are barely able to lift their heads, utter a decayed fragment of a word. Their minds are laid low, fallen into darkness. Everything seems to be breaking down, dying, and wrapped in decay. It cannot be escaped here: elsewhere in our life we may go foolishly along, ignoring both death and our fellow man's suffering. Elsewhere it easy enough to look away from men's faces, and forget, or scorn. Here it is much harder: the rooms are small, the ceilings low, and the furnishings sparse. There is little to distract: only the mechanical pulse of medical machines, or the cries of the sick down the hall. The whole sadness of broken, diseased man's existence is easily brought down to a point, and confronts.

There is one lady particularly who I am always left deeply heartsore by. She is completely bed-bound, her mind and body terribly decayed. She can still utter attempts at words, which I understand occassionaly. But she is still very aware of herself and her surrondings. She listens to us when we talk to her, and understands, and will try to respond. We will ask if she would like for us to pray for her, and she always nods yes. And when we prepare to go, we tell her I love you (such simple words!). She tries to say the same. I will lean over next to her metal-barred bed, and she grips my hand, and holds it to her lips- worn away and incapable of drinking or speaking or eating- and kisses it. If I were a Dostoevsky I could describe what this is like; but I am not, and cannot. Perhaps- probably- it cannot be described. I lean over her and try to return her love, but I cannot. I whisper my love, make the sign of the Cross, and, silently praying Lord have mercy (I can barely pray anything else), leave. I am left confused and guilty. My heart burns. I want to cry out, to kiss, to embrace, to begin to love: but I feel utterly helpless.

And yet, in the midst of it, I am certain that Christ is there. Such a place, and such a person, is not where I would expect faith to flourish, and the divine vision appear. But it does. How is it that I (I, who am as concerned with my own ego and my perceptions as I am of the suffering image of God before me) can percieve Him here? This is not where I should find Him: not in the dying, in the broken, is it? But of course it is. We serve a God Who suffered and died. Who hung upon a blood-stained rough Cross, Who was beaten and bruised mercilessly, Who was coldly embraced by death, by man's hatred. My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? He has been forsaken; therefore He is in the forsaken, and is our healing. His love flows into the very heart of this weary, dying world, and, by being embraced by it, embraces it and speaks redemption, works redemption.

I do not understand any of this. St. Augustine wrote of believing first, and understanding later. I think this is what he meant. And yet I also begin to understand in another sense that I cannot truly describe. The Incarnation is manifested, and in the senseless, it makes sense. Love is found in the midst of death. Glory flows from suffering. Love shows Himself, and kisses my hand. He has come, and He will make all things well.

Come Lord Jesus


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