This morning I saw a short video clip that really touched my heart. From the description, the video featured a very old woman in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, who was mostly non-verbal. At least, she had not spoken in some time. A man who looked to be in his 50’s or perhaps early 60’s–along with an off-camera woman–softly sang the old children’s bible school standard “Jesus Loves Me” to her, encouraging her to sing along. You see her mouth open and close, and hear her little wisp of a voice mouthing the words
“yes, Jesus loves me…
yes, Jesus loves me…”
It amazed me, to tell you the truth. I love that song, and I think it is, at its heart, the beautiful truth of scripture and the heart of Jesus toward those he created. In the case of this video—and likely many other situations–most of this woman’s memory is gone. She doesn’t speak. Yet within her is some kind of spiritual muscle memory, and she is able to sing the words as she nears the end of her long journey.
I have no proof in any way, but it’s my belief that it is with this truth Jesus will speak to each of us as we approach the finish line. It may be that we have forgotten most things, or that we’re suffering terribly. Yet there is something within each of us that will remember He who made us at our ends. I think that is where the idea of the “light at the end of the tunnel” comes from. I think that when one looks from dark to light, the light can seem far away at first, and then come closer and closer. I think we will see a light beyond our ability to comprehend as we fly from darkness to light. Surely, the experience will be specific to each person, but the commonality will be Jesus waiting for us, his face the ultimate light.
Jesus loves me this I know
I think of Luke, 16:22, which says
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.”
I think when the time comes we are all beggars. What else could we be? We can’t save ourselves. And we want the sense of assurance that comes from knowing we will one day be carried to Abraham’s side. I think it was the innate knowledge in the heart of every believer that reminds us of this and makes this hardest of transitions bearable. Or even possible.
I don’t know anything about the faith of the old woman in the video, but it occurs to me as I write this, at 0915 in Yakima, Washington, that if the last words I speak (or hopefully, sing) when my time comes are the powerful words of that song, then the knowledge that what is waiting for me just a whisper away will make me reach out for him who also reaches out for me.
There is a personal context to all of this, because as I write this, I’m also thinking of my wife’s paternal grandfather, who is struggling with alzheimer’s as he nears the end of his own journey. I am glad beyond measure that I was able to know him briefly before his struggle began in earnest. I remember his hearty and incredibly loud voice greeting me with words like “Whattaya say, Tom?” And then cracking my fingers in a powerful handshake.
I think of the terrible financial situation we were in when we got married, thanks to a lifetime of irresponsibility. I think of Jack helping us out, and getting us through the hard times with an unexpected gift, and then shrugging off the gift because it was what his wife would have wanted to do. I remember kneeling and thanking God in my father-in-law’s living room, and crying like a baby (with no shame in my game).
I haven’t seen Jack in a while, but I think of him all the time, and not just because of his generosity. I think that he raised his boys right, and they are both honorable men who love their families and God, each in his own way. I don’t know my wife’s uncle well, but her father is one of my heroes.
I hope that when the angels come to take Jack home, that he hears this beautiful song in his heart.
I heard Brennan Manning say once that when our time nears, Jesus calls out to each of us from the Song of Songs, as his father called to him when he was on the cross. I believe him. It sounds like something he’d do.
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
I can’t wait to speak to Papa Jack again one day, when he’s all there, because I know he will have a lot to say. And I hope he’s there to welcome me, with a strong handshake and a “whattaya say, Tom.”