Dad is pushing 90 and has dementia. As one friend recently said, “He's way out of warranty.”
But other than the brain-wasting disease, and the general feebleness that comes with having torn so many pages off the calendar, he’s in remarkably good health. It’s just the dementia.
This ain’t the first rodeo for my family. Between us, my wife and I are four outta four for parents with the disease. Yep,100%.
So, we know the drill.
Dad’s home in Houston took on a bit of the water from Hurricane Harvey. Not much water compared to the
We need to remember it is grace that sustains us, empowers us and is freely given to us by the Spirit.
homes of so many folks but enough that it would take a few weeks to restore. When I got the call that he would be spending several days with us while repairs were made, we geared up. I was prepared for the need for near-constant attention and establishing a clear routine. I scheduled backup help so I could focus on other things for a few hours each day. I moved downstairs to sleep in the room next to his so I could listen for him through the night. Bought some Blue Bell and a few other necessities to make him feel as much at home as possible.
But after two weeks of taking care of Dad, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I tried to be objective and ask why I was so tired. It’s not like I had to pick him up and carry him places. I was able to catch up on some sleep while he took hours-long naps during the day. And we acclimated to our new routine without too many bumps.
So what was it?
I am sure there were a number of factors at play. But there is something about having to constantly answer the same questions over and over that wears a person down. Something about having to continually remind someone of basic facts; of having to explain, re-explain, and then explain again what is going on, or happening next.
And I get it. We all know the anxiety of uncertainty. Of not knowing where we are. Why we are there. Whether the essentials—food, safety, loved ones—are taken care of. When we aren’t sure about these things, we can’t help but ask. We compulsively seek the answers we need to soothe our distress. The fatigue of struggling to remember wears as heavily on the one who forgets as the fatigue of repetition wears on the one doing the reminding.
Sunday mornings at Grace Church have settled into a pretty predictable routine. We show up at the same place and time, get started about the same number of minutes past when we say we will start, work our way through a familiar liturgy. Not too many surprises. We might even wonder if it’s really necessary to show up fifty-two Sundays outta the year for an experience that offers so little in the way of new information. Honestly, if you have spent even a few weeks at Grace, you are going to have figured out the basics of our message. There is always depth and nuance to add.
But as far as the foundations go, what more do we really need to know?
I would suggest it’s not so much new information that we need as it is to be reminded of what we do know. Consistent, repetitive reminding. We think we have it down, but as soon as we walk out the door on Sunday mornings we are assaulted with images and ads, offers and enticements to forget.
Forget who we really are and why we are here. Forget who we are called to follow and worship, or the family we have been adopted into. Forget what it is that sustains and provides for us.
Forget it all.
As a result, we anxiously fill our hours with frenetic activities or dull our anxiety with the myriad placebos and intoxicants that are easier to access than one-click shopping on Amazon Prime.
Truth is, it’s work to remember, and none of us can do it alone. We all need reminding. Regular, consistent, unhurried, non-anxious reminding. We need to be reminded we are God’s children, loved and cherished and provided for by God. We need to be reminded we are here to glorify God and enjoy God forever. We need to be reminded we are called to follow Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him. We need to remember it is grace that sustains us, empowers us and is freely given to us by the Spirit. We need to remember our lives are not our own; we have been made part of the family of God, and part of the family of Grace Church.
We need to be reminded.
So we gather regularly, we set our clocks and calendars around the story and seasons of the Church. We commit ourselves to teach and remind others as we are taught and reminded ourselves. We immerse ourselves in our calling and our Kingdom work as the Body of Christ. We learn to resist all the lies and enticements, to let go of our anxieties and addictions as we experience the presence and provision of God. We especially learn to let go of our fears when we look in the face of Jesus and see the total lack of anxiety He has toward us: There is nothing there but love and grace.
And we realize He never tires of reminding us we are His.
John Ray is a missionary, spiritual director and the elder responsible for teaching at Grace Church of NWA. John and his wife Jane spend way too much time packing and unpacking, vacuuming dog hair and chasing raccoons off their porch. They much prefer sharing good food and good coffee with friends, reading and trying to keep up with their daughters.