The Wisdom of Love
Updated: Jun 21
It had been only a few weeks after her husband, Charlie, had died that Michael was visiting Charlie’s wife, Katie, in a nursing home in their parish. Both Michael and Charlie had been Ministers of Care bringing Holy Communion to the homebound for years. Katie now suffered from Alzheimer’s and in Charlie’s final days he had asked Michael to continue to visit Katie for as long as he could.
After ringing the bell at the door, a young orderly opened and told Michael that Katie would be coming down the hall shortly. The nursing home is laid out with a common area for dining and community activities in the center; a hallway circles the common area; and the individual rooms are around the periphery.
This morning, she was holding fast to the railing along the wall.
Soon, Katie appeared to Michael’s left. He’d seen her several times before; but this time his heart sank. This morning, she was holding fast to the railing along the wall, letting go of it only briefly as she passed by a doorway. She seemed to have declined so much since he last saw her. As she neared, Michael said, “Good Morning” to her; she stopped; looked blankly at him for some time and then continued down the hall, clutching the handrail. Since the hallway circles back around, she’d be passing him again shortly.
Michael waited patiently. He could hear Amazing Grace being played on a flute coming from the common area, some distance away. After a while, Katie appeared again, coming along the hall tightly grasping the railing with her left hand.
Michael had found, in the past, with some Alzheimer patients, that when he begins the Our Father, they’re able to focus in on what is going on. So, he tried it as Katie approached.
Does she recognize me? he thought;
Lord, please let her recognize me.
She paused; looked intently at him. Does she recognize me? he thought; Lord, please let her recognize me. But then she continued on. His heart sank even further as she continued her quest shuffling down the hall, grasping the handrail as she went.
Michael has been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound for years; some have been in early stages of Alzheimer’s. And, most often it’s been a very encouraging experience. But seeing Katie like this brought tears to his eyes as he turned to leave.
He sat for a long while in his car just trying to compose himself. Then, he thought of that line from Proverbs: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls” [Prv. 31:10]. He pictured Charlie anxiously waiting for Katie in the eternal presence of Jesus; and in a fleeting moment in his mind’s eye, it was Michael waiting for his wife, Betty. This was such a troubling experience; but most of all maddening – maddening at how tragically cruel Alzheimer’s is. It hurt to see Charlie’s “pearl-of-great-value” left with the only thing in her mind she can rely on was the handrail in the hall.
We’re left to trust in the wisdom of God,
a wisdom of love we can’t really understand.
A long while passed as Michael sat just staring at the steering wheel. It really is true, he thought, we’re left to trust in the wisdom of God, a wisdom of love we can’t really understand. But it’s a wisdom of love that keeps Charlie’s hand outstretched to Katie long after she’s lost her memory of him. A wisdom of love that, someday, will bring comfort to us long after we’ve lost our “usefulness” in the eyes of the world; a wisdom of love that makes sublime much of what the world sees as useless, even foolish, effort - like still trying to bring Christ to someone who’s only pillar in life now is the handrail in the hall.
‘Till next time.
Dcn Bob Evans