A family friend has been diagnosed with one of those degenerative diseases that mark the end of a life as known. It feels as if the disease does not take its hold until that point at which you are told.
Like the day you hear that someone has died; it may have been days, even months since their death, but until you know that they have gone, their presence is assumed. A few years ago I learned that a friend of mine had died, but because of the vagueries of communication, because we had been friends directly rather than part of a group, I did not learn of his death until several weeks later. I have since then thought I saw him: in the train station, on the street, his distinctive hair and clothing making a beeline for my subconscious.
This family friend is a dear man. He, and one of the most wonderful women I have ever had the fortune to know, married a few years ago, both in the age of their lean and slippered pantaloon. He is a clever man, always quick with a gracious smile and insightful comment. He once said:
“There are times when you don’t feel like praying or don’t want to read your bible and feel ambivalent. And that’s ok, because it’s at those times that you don’t hold onto God, rather He holds onto you.”
I take heart from this. And I also take heart that even with the vagueries of communication being what they are, his wisdom can be passed on.
While at university my friend told me that he felt he was living in the wrong place, that he needed to be back in South America, where he felt happy and he felt he was doing God’s work. That was where he died.
I cannot begin to try understanding my place in His scheme of things. When people of great wisdom and insight are condemned to spend their last years in confusion and dementia, when people of great heart and courage die young, it is hard to find a meaning that will reside comfortably in a small and fragile brain.
Perhaps the songs of childhood, in which our great God has the whole world in His hands (and someone else brings the food to our table) are the best place to find comfort. And so I fall back into those hands, in faith.