If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. – Psalm 139: 9-12
Meryl and Hugh introduced me to Alzheimer's forty years ago. Back then the illness was not well known. But Hugh, a devoted husband, instinctively made decisions about Meryl's care. She had been an elegant and proud woman. Hugh brought her to church as long as he could, but eventually she became very dependent on him. Their morning routine took longer and longer. The day came when he could not get her fed, bathed, and dressed in time for church. Hugh hired some help at work. But he wanted to be with her all he could.
Recently married, I observed the greatest love story I’d ever known. I was being tutored in the meaning of love. Serving my first parish, I was taught many things by this 70 year old caregiver and his beautiful wife who never remembered me. Though I was barely 27, Hugh allowed me to be their pastor. He talked to me about his journey and the stresses of life; about his grief, devotion, love and determination to keep Meryl at home.
It was a Sunday night, the week before Christmas. Our little parish of three churches had scheduled to go caroling. It turned so bitterly cold that good sense would have said, "Cancel.” But a handful of the faithful showed up. We decided to go and sing for Meryl and Hugh, who had not been to church since spring. Hugh insisted we come in out of the cold. We visited briefly. Meryl was behaving like a flirtatious 13 year old, and kept asking if we knew her boyfriend (Hugh), exhibiting other childlike behaviors. Hugh settled her on the sofa beside him and told her we were going to sing for them.
"Silent Night, Holy Night," we sang. I will never forget the tears that began to slip down Meryl's cheeks, the look of recognition on her face, the deep connection we all felt in that holy moment, the level ground on which we stood. There we were, a motley crew, each broken and gazing into the manger at the "light that overcomes the darkness."
Holy God, thank you for allowing our feet of clay to rest upon ground made holy by Your gracious presence. From where we stand, we cannot see the dark places where Your light penetrates and memory never fades; where Your love never fails nor pauses. We are thankful for glimpses of Your power at work, bringing light into darkness, hope into despair, strength to the weak, and life out of death. Holy God, lead me by your hand to today to Holy Ground. Amen