The Landis Communities Board begins its meetings with a meditation, often led by a board member. In the recent March 20 meeting, Landis Homes resident Barbara Reed was invited to share the following devotional which she entitled, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”. An audio recording of the devotional, including the below poem, “Listen Up, You Villain”, is also available at – https://soundcloud.com/landishomes/barbara-reed-devotional-landis-communities-board-meeting
Last week I read about the boy Samuel hearing God’s voice. Three times, thinking it was Eli calling, he ran to him until finally Eli said, “Lie down again and if he calls you say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Very important words, easier to say than to practice! While there were certainly times when I did not listen, by simply ignoring God’s gentle promptings, I’ve chosen to share three instances of having heard God speak and what resulted from obeying the prompts. At Lori’s request, this will include my poem of lament for my husband’s terminal illness.
Scene 1: One of the songs sung at church the first Sunday after Harold’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease (mid-2008) was Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name.” Lyrics take off from the very pleasant but quickly change to depict a wilderness journey of darkness and suffering, all the while continuing to bless God. In singing the entire song that day, I made a decision to praise God independent of my life experience or emotional state. I believe the song was God’s word to me at a crucial time and my choice to praise God independent of circumstances grounded me from the start for this unwanted and difficult journey.
Scene 2: April 7, 2010, I awakened earlier than usual w/ a prompt to put some things on paper; I don’t know if I had a sense of direction with that thought but what resulted was a page called “And Then There Was Alzheimer’s: Dealing With an Unwelcome Villain.” I began with some foundational principles important to me:
- Every person has been created with great worth not diminished by poverty, sickness or any other factor.
- As a follower of Jesus Christ, I attempt to love and respect others as I wish to be loved and respected.
- When I married Harold, I vowed to love him in sickness and in health. Alzheimer’s Disease is sickness, so what!
- Harold has often served me beyond the call of duty; this is my opportunity to serve him.
A longer list of choices and coping skills comprised most of what remained of the page, including these few:
- I will not fight what I cannot change. Acceptance is so freeing!
- I will not cross bridges until I get there. As appropriate, I will think and plan ahead but worry will not find lodging with me.
- Happiness and joy are not one and the same. Happiness depends on things positive, therefore much has fled, while joy is a gift from God not diminished by circumstances. Even Alzheimer’s Disease cannot steal my joy unless I block the channel.
Along with family and church support, the principles and declarations on that page became pivotal for my spiritual and emotional wellness as Harold’s illness progressed and our retirement journey unfolded so differently from what we had expected and wanted. For example, returning alone that first evening after Harold’s entry into Landis Homes full-time care, the cottage seemed so cold and lonely. But then I remembered: I will not fight what I cannot change and I was alright.
Scene 3: From that day, fast forward exactly three years to December 15, 2014, when I awakened with a few words in mind and a little nudge to write them down before forgetting. So to the computer and before I ever stopped to have breakfast, most of what became a two-page poem was written.
In all these instances, gentle promptings to praise God or to write were surely from the Holy Spirit and I would have ignored them to my loss. Poetry writing has not been my forte but Listen Up, You Villain is the lament that came forth, written in view of such a time when Harold’s earthly sojourn ends.
Listen Up, You Villain
O Alzheimer’s Disease for more than six years you stole from Harold in measured increments. Thief! Robber of the lowest sort an exacting villain!
You stole the ability to feed himself to ambulate at will to get into and out of a vehicle much less to drive it this one who in earlier years drove trucks, then Land Rovers over Somalia sand, who administered Africa programs for Eastern Mennonite Missions, who, as bishop, advocated for women in ministry; who encouraged, comforted and was loved by countless persons as Garden Spot Village Chaplain.
You stole the ability to think logically and to reason; the ability to travel and give wise counsel to his children the ability to plan, preach and lead worship, even to attend the church of his choice, to sing clearly Praise to God, Immortal Praise.
O Alzheimer’s Disease you are a robber of the lowest sort! No more can he exult in the births of great grandchildren, relish and respond to their smiles give them rides on his knee celebrate their milestones or formulate prayers for their life in you.
You have stolen from him the ability to put his arm around me and draw me close you stole memory and language, the ability to say “I love you, sweetheart!”
O Alzheimer’s Disease you are a robber of the lowest sort stealing even the depths of intimacy! But hear this, sinister Villain that you are! You have not yet stolen everything; sometimes his sweetest of all smiles break forth to bless me and when lips touch lips, he responds in kind so love speaks without words.
O Alzheimer’s Villain, listen up and know this, too – when your robber’s escapade reaches its zenith and death’s icy clutches make their final claim you will meet your Waterloo and HE WILL HAVE THE LAST WORD!
He who kept his gentle spirit in spite of losses will laugh more deeply than ever he will shout “Glory,” he will dance he will be at home where you cannot divide and conquer, where freedom and joy reign supreme, where love is life’s very essence and shalom, complete.
So, Villain, know this: you will have had your day, you will have reached the limit YOU will be the one robbed – robbed of any power to harm while he is welcomed with “Good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your Lord.” So take that and depart forevermore!
Glory be to God and Jesus Christ, Harold’s bulwark through the storm, who is Word of God and Life Everlasting! Hallelujah, Amen!
Barbara K. Reed December 15, 2014
“Speak, Lord, for your servants, members of the Landis Communities’ Board, are listening.”
Harvest Room at Landis Homes March 20, 2015