Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Michaelmas Day

I popped in to see Bill in hospital this afernoon, now on his way to recovery after an operation to mend his broken femur on Sunday. He's looking bruised about the face, but is as alert and perceptive as ever. He described a sleepless night in a busy ward quite factually. The fact that his description sounded surreal reflected precisely that experience of strange events in half darkness - am I dreaming or am I not? As I recall from my brief overnight hospital stay last year. It was reassuring to see him, and receive a big smile as I departed.

This evening a dozen of us received Mary Denholm's body into church overnight before her funeral and I celebrated a requiem Mass. She'd been a parishioner since her family was bombed out of their home in Splott when she was a teenager during the Blitz, nearly seventy years, always active and a great lover of her church.

Her past few years had been spent in a nursing home because of dementia. In the early days of its onset, when it was simply a question of worsening forgetfulness, she would turn up for a Sunday service on the wrong day, still confident enough to order a taxi and get there, and needing to be persuaded that she had made a mistake. Being part of the church and its worship was so central to her life that the urge to be there remained in the face of the failure of her faculties.

Whilst at one level this is sad, at another, it says a great deal about the soul's longing and how it engages the will, even when the mind fails. I've heard it said that Alzheimer's patients who cannot remember who they are, or anyone else with any degree of consistency, can still be able to recite the Lord's Prayer. It's embedded in that intangible part of us where the soul and the will reside.

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