I always knew where to look for Lucy*.
According to her children, she never wanted to be in a memory care unit. But that’s where I visited with her for the last nine months of her life. She died in 2021, ninety-three years old.
A waif of a woman, Lucy’s long silver hair was highlighted by her overly-tanned skin, baked hard from decades of exposure to sunlight. When she was young she rode a horse to school; in later years she helped drive cattle to Lake Tahoe. Children? She raised three and mentored dozens of others through 4H and Native Daughters of the Golden West. Working the family hops farm, painting, dancing, traveling, tracking mountain lions and digging clams – life was an adventure for which Lucy saddled up daily.
Until her age caught up to her, and she traded in her cow pony for a wheelchair. No longer able to live in the present, she retold the stories of her younger years. Over and over.
But one passion, one choice, one drive never left Lucy. That’s why I knew where I could find her every other week – sitting in the sunshine.
The memory care facility where she resided for her life’s last chapter framed an open patio, into which she would wheel herself … unless it was too hot or too cold. In that case, she would scoot along the inside corridor by the windows, basking for a few minutes in one place. And then another.
In that one small way, Lucy consistently did what she had always done: she sought out the light – even in a memory care unit. It’s who she was. And whenever I walked up to greet her, her smile was a reflective ray.
You might say she was a child of the light.
Melanie*, however, has made a different choice. Twice a month I walk into her one-bedroom apartment at the assisted living facility where she lives. And twice a month I find her sitting in her silent and semi-dark room – blinds partially or fully drawn, lights and TV off, daily facility schedules and local newspapers sit unread.
Yes, she smiles to greet me, but it’s quickly followed by a forlorn sigh and a litany of reasons why she eats in her room and avoids scheduled activities.
Melanie is ninety-six years old and also suffers from memory loss, which is why I was initially skeptical of her complaints that her children never visit … until I learned that it was true. By choice. Decades of being reamed out and ragged on got old, so they simply stopped coming.
She made life difficult for others, and now she lives out her life-sentence of loneliness. Hello, darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again**.
Our early choices affect life’s later chapters – whether we are aware of it or not. It was true for Lucy. It is true for Melanie. We are no different.
Why have I brought this to the Blue Spigot?
May 2023 has been a purposely reflective month, as it marks the fiftieth anniversary of being drafted into God’s service. I wrote about that in an earlier post. My vocational course was set for me in those early years.
But what about the remaining chapters? How many years will I be given? I don’t know. But I do know that I want to set my bearings now for my inner life, for how I will live for the rest of my days. And here’s my conclusion.
I want to be like Lucy.
No, living until I’m ninety-three is not my goal. But like Lucy, I want to be a child of the light, but in a fuller sense than parking my wheelchair by a window.
I want to live in the light of Christ.
As May approached, one of my goals for the month was the development of two simple daily directives: one to launch the day, and one to recite before I sleep.
I’ll share with you my morning call that I adopted starting this month, quoted by Paul in Ephesians 5:14: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
This reveille comes at the conclusion of Paul’s encouragement for believers to live in accord with who we are: you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.***
I’ve long loved this chapter in the Bible, but I want to move from appreciating it to acting on it. If I truly am a child of light, then I need to wake up from my daily slumber and live in that light – the light of God’s love.
Like Lucy, my present choice will have an affect on my later chapters.
I want to have one passion, one choice, one drive. I want to live as one who has been raised from the dead by our resurrected Lord. And I look forward to discovering more as I seek to make this my daily call, seeking to walk paths that are good and right and true.
And as I set forth from May 2023 until the end of my life, I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given in this chapter as a Hospice Chaplain. My job is deeply fulfilling and sets me firmly on a lifetime path. Each day I meet with several people, attempting to reflect the light and love of Christ into their spirit, offering companionship and comfort to those transitioning from this life to the next.
Will you pray for me to be faithful to this desire – to let the light of Christ shine on me and be reflected through me … for the rest of my life?
And I’d love it if you would reply with a comment on this post. Let me know if and how this has inspired you, and how I can pray for you. I would be honored to join you.
Benediction of Blessing
May you wake up from your slumber and rise from the deadness of this world as one who has been raised to a new life in Christ.
May you have a passion to live in the light of God’s love for the rest of your days.
May you reflect his light to everyone you live with, work with, and encounter.
* Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
**from The Sound of Silence, written by Paul Simon in 1964, sung by Simon & Garfunkel.
*** from Ephesians 5:8-9.
Child of Light: Melissa Askew on Unsplash
Dock: Gleb Lucky on Unsplash
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM