Thursday, June 28, 2012

Conversations about getting old

"When my dementing mother dies, and if there is a heaven, what will she be like there?"

It's put to me as a dealbreaker. Could God answer such a question? Can he solve the ambiguity of human deterioration and eternity?

I understand the dilemma. Is it the me who dies who goes to heaven, or the best possible me? Is my brain part of my soul as much as it is part of my mind? Do resurrection bodies have neurofibrillary tangles or Alzheimer's plaques?

The answer comes as we share a cuppa and she talks about visiting her grandmother in the locked ward. It's to stop her wandering since she kept nipping out to the shops and getting lost in her last nursing home.

My friend cries and tells me her dad loves his mum so much that he sits with her and reminds her of all the little details she forgets. He tells the same stories again and he leads her gently by the arm to the same places. He's tender and careful. And so patient. She's fading and sometimes querulous, but he loves her. He sees her spirit, her history, and it transcends her failing brain.

So in heaven, there'll be healed memories. Resurrection brains won't deteriorate. And your dementing mother will be the woman of youthful vigour and care-worn wisdom that you love.

The fingerprints of this life may be on us, but the light of heaven will be within us, among us.

Somehow. God knows.

linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travel and Memories

Prodigal magazine are having a link-up about travel stories. They included one of my posts last time in the living a better story link-up. I'm joining in again...

If you've ever caught the Bundeena ferry on a sun-soaked afternoon, then you know. That low-lying slow chug, past slope-hugging houses with private beaches and moored runabouts. It's a little like walking on water and absorbing Sunday afternoon through my skin. And I can taste a Golden Gaytime ice cream.

Cook Strait from Makara by Timon Maxey (original artwork)

Patrick's mum points out the picture on the wall at preschool. I asked about their trip to New Zealand, and her smile is part shyness and part pure bliss. They crossed the Cook Strait in a huge ferry and drove as far south as possible. They picnicked with seals and penguins and felt like they were spectacularly alone.

Now they're home, she goes to work and Patrick goes to preschool and the holiday is woven in their days by memory. She's crossed two thousand kilometers in an instant and I can watch it play in her eyes. The impulse passes to me and I'm standing on the same ferry holding a six month old son in the cold ocean wind. Leaning on a rail, looking to the south island. We smile.

There's a hunger to see new places that drives our travel. Sometimes it's acquisative, the desire to have "been there". For others it's a search, to discover more. To somehow know more of ourselves by seeing more of 'the other'. Sometimes it's the revelling in beauty, the lure of new.

But what about the travel driven by escape?

Spurred by persecution or loss.

One woman tells the story of sitting with her three children on a crowded, leaking boat. Sitting preparing to die. And she's one woman in a boat of two hundred. Two hundred on a boat that fits forty.

Sharks circled the boat. Dead travellers were thrown overboard. There's no space for the luxury of respect on a boat of desperation. Now her children wake in the night shaking. Nightmares of lurking sharks and thirsting in a cramped wet corner. She tells me it's a miracle that they survived.

Their journey is indelibly burnt in memory, and it haunts them.

I wonder if it's a miracle that they lived for months in detention on Christmas Island. Whether its a miracle that the family struggles to overcome the disorientation of settling in Australia. But she's right. It's a miracle they're here.

Where did this journey begin? I can only imagine the moment when one decides to run from familiarity forever. Bizarrely, political torture and persecution is dwarfed by the terror of almost dying on a boat to freedom, or enduring the process of seeking asylum. Escape is harrowing.

I don't know the answer, certainly not one that is politically expedient or easily popular. Australia is lost at the moment.* We need wisdom and steadfast, compassionate hearts.

Let's dig into our memories of times we've been desperate. Where has it taken us?

Perhaps we're not so far from getting on a leaky boat, frantically grasping for escape, for life.

*Australia needs audacious solutions to help asylum seekers. Boats are sinking, people are dying.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Back to Romans 8 - remember?

image from here

Jean posted about memorising bible passages and I squirmed because I've been neglecting my brainfood. I've been reading ahead and noting all the similarities and repeated phrases. Is there any way I could memorise all those different ways of saying Jesus lives in me? And put them in the right order?

Memorising is long work - repetition and then more repetition. Like the three tips to get better at any skill...practice, practice and practice. Laying down the memory happens by following that network of synapses again and again. And well, repetition is boring. I'd rather be eating Mint Slice biscuits. Wouldn't you?

This is why it sucks to be human - I just don't care about stuff that is careworthy. I couldn't be bothered working for the good stuff, for treasure that doesn't get mouldy. I'd rather have a Mint Slice. But try those babies after an eternity with the packet open.

This body is going to die, that is certain. All chocolate biscuits will get mouldy and perish. But there's one thing that will give me life - being able to rub noses with the God of the universe. Him making me a place to hang out and cleaning up all my sucky human-ness, so that I can never get mouldy and live forever in the non-perishing heart of God. Amen.

Now for a little repetition...

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. Romans 8:10