One of the greatest gifts of ministry is gaining the opportunity to see though the eyes of those who we encounter. If we are able to be unencumbered by our own concerns, schedules and preconceptions, then we are able to truly receive that gift. Not an easy task, given the demands of our day and the increasing expectations of family and work. Yet, so incredibly rewarding in broadening our perspective and fostering gratitude when invited to walk in the experience of others.
Small and petite “Ruth”, now 94 and suffering from dementia, is currently living with her daughter and her family. Unlike so many who are hit by this mental deterioration she is able to remain in a home setting cared for by those who know and love her best. This being my second time, I am prepared for what is in store. Greeted warmly first by her grandson, Ruth meets me with the most beautiful smile. “Oh you came, so very good to see you!” “Yes, I am here to bring you communion today”, I said. “Really?! That is so wonderful and so very kind of you! What is your name?” “Elizabeth, I am from Resurrection and St. Paul parishes.” “Thank you…this (pointing to her head) doesn’t always remember everything very well.”
Sitting down, we talk briefly as she tells me how she is doing. “Had a good night’s sleep, and they feed me well here. And, the sun is shining!” Ruth who doesn’t remember even long term names and relationships is content merely to know that she is surrounded by family. Due to short and long term memory loss, Ruth is pressed to live in the moment. As she asks me my name again, I place my card in her hand.
“This is yours to keep, my name is here. I will be coming every week with communion.” “Wow, I didn’t know that anyone did that. You know, I haven’t been able to go to church for some time. I can’t remember when..” , she said pausing and looking off. “Can I give you anything in return?”
“That’s ok, that is why I am here. When you can no longer get to church..church comes to you! And no, my gift is being here with you!”, I exclaimed.
“This is the best! What do I need to do?”, her joy and excitement now showing.
“Let’s pray together, and then you can receive Christ.”
With the sign of the cross, all of a sudden I lay witness as her memory comes flooding back. Each word flows from her lips and she is fully present aware of the sacredness of this time and space. Her humble act of contrition spoken, we pray the Our Father together. Placing the Eucharist in her mouth, she closes her eyes and bows her head, her body remembering the motions of a lifetime of faith. In parting, she followed me to the door asking if I was to come back again.
“Of course! I am looking forward to it, you are the best part of my day”, I said.
“You too!”, she said with a smile and a wave.
Is my life so scheduled that I can forget to savor the moment? Could there be an opportunity to share or receive Christ today with someone I meet?