Recently I had the painful experience of sharing time with a mother and daughter at the bed of a man suffering from a form of Alzheimers. The expression, 'suffering' is best applied to the wife and daughter. They are the ones who see the outward form of the man they loved, while unable to communicate with him as they once did. He simply does not know who they are. Yet they recognize him and act accordingly.
I think this is a most insidious disease. I am sure physical suffering is in many ways worse. I watched my own parents waste away for months and I saw them struggle to breath, toss and turn in agony. I would be a fool to say that was not awful. Yet, there is a horror in seeing someone you love look you straight in the eyes and not recognize you at all. "daddy does not know me," she said, "he just thinks I am a nice person who is kind to him."
And, of course, she is. A very nice person who is being very kind to him. A person who is loving her dad with no return. A woman who has cried many tears as she struggles with this profoundly bizarre world into which she finds herself thrust. It is like that movie "A Wonderful Life" where Jimmy Stewart gets his wish and "never existed" and returns to his hometown to discover that his friends and loved ones do not know him. It is hard to relate to someone who is unaware of what we know. Whether a whole town or one dad with dementia, it is hard.
In our conversation that night we discussed the state of this man's soul. Not in the religious sense of Mid-Southerners pondering his final destiny. (This was a man of faith and fidelity, we assume God's promise and mercy are trustworthy.) No, we talked about the spiritual-physical interaction. We talked about those cases where someone is "in a coma" and shows no signs of consciousness and later comes out of it to relate that they could hear everything. We talked about people who laid in hospital beds with uncooperative bodies even as mind (or soul) was fully aware and engaged. We asked, "Is Alzheimers such a thing?" Are people inside their own heads, unable to communicate because their physical bodies have become broken? Much like victims of brain trauma know what they want to say but cannot say it?
I do not know, I spin no theories here. Just a guy wondering about life and death. But I do wonder.
Something I am pretty sure about is that we all have Alzheimer, spiritually. All of us live in a fog, unable to process reality. We think we know, but we do not. We have forgotten. We have lost our memory of who we are and who we are created to be. We have forgotten our Creator and forgotten our destiny. It is the state we find ourselves in Original Sin. It is why all us, even, perhaps especially, Believers, are such foul mess ups. It is why the church is not good much of the time, and why professing Christians live lives which are out of sync with the faith they proclaim.
In John 1 we read that the Light appeared in the darkness, but the darkness did not overcome/apprehend it. Like much of John, the language is multi-layered. It has meanings and deeper meanings. The darkness does not defeat the light (though it appears it has). The darkness does not understand the light (though it thinks it does). Here is the thing to remember, we are all in the darkness, believer or unbeliever. We are all unable to apprehend, comprehend or understand (completely). We are in the darkness and we are the darkness. It is taken into ourselves and a part of us. We do well to be humble and remember our sorry state. It is all God's grace not our own doing. We can forget that as well.
Like the victim of those insidious brain diseases, we do not know who we are and we do not know God. So He whispers to us, "I know you do not recognize Me, but I remember you. I am here, and I am faithful." And we mutter are thanks or speak the words (perhaps the right words) but we speak without understanding. And the most deluded of us claim to understand and know, claim to somehow already be in the light and freed of darkness, even as we babble incoherently..
Some day there will be a great awakening. Our bodies made new, our minds refurbished. We will know as we are known. We will understand much more completely. On that day we will all look back on the present darkness as a time prior to our birth. Veiled in the darkness of unknowing, we are even now being shaped and formed into what God intended. The creation is ongoing. It is a process. When it is done there will be light and we will understand. Hope to a weary world in darkness....