Friday, April 3, 2015

Finding familiarity

Paul received a message from the hospice nurse that Dorris was agitated. His text asked me to go over and see her after class.

I decided to bring one of our cats for a “cat therapy” visit. In an unusual demonstration of empathy, Natalia settled down into Dorris' lap and purred her enjoyment of the scratches and petting. Dorris settled in quite nicely, too.

I began to dig through her closet to find some clothes to wear for her trip to our house for Easter. I found a jacket and asked her if she would like to wear it.

“Yes,” she said, “it has a bit of magnificence about it.”

It is interesting to me how quickly the Dorris I know and love can seemingly leave and then return. In the thirty years I have known her, until her Alzheimer’s, Dorris never, ever gave the impression that she was lost, or somehow not in control of all that was happening around her. I loved that constant assurance.

She is now at the stage where nothing is familiar for more than a few seconds at a time. When I visit with the cat, I must tell her over and over, that the cat does not live in this room, that the cat came to visit Dorris – not the other way around. I must constantly answer her question with the assurance that this room is where she lives and that it is not my house.

Today, I responded to the familiar questions by asking her if she recognized the furniture, pictures, and sculpture in the room.

“Well, they do look familiar -  like I have seen them somewhere before.”

Imagine living in a world where things looked vaguely familiar, but not like home. Then, imagine rediscovering this about every 10-15 seconds. 

It is little wonder that she gets agitated. It is more of a wonder why she isn’t agitated all of the time.

But a nine-pound cat can make all the difference. A cat doesn’t have to be familiar. It doesn’t have to belong. Once it snuggles in and starts purring, that is enough familiarity to keep anyone happy.

Thank you, God, for pets.

On the days leading up to Good Friday, Jesus tried to warn the disciples that change was in the works. His behavior must have been unfamiliar to his followers. Jesus raged in the temple, rode a donkey, washed feet, and allowed His capture.

Jesus’ death meant that, even though, the world was full of familiar things – nothing was, or ever would be, the same again. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 
(I John 4: 9-10, ESV)

The fact that our sin could only be appeased by the death and resurrection of God’s Son should be a source of constant agitation, and guilt, and humiliation. Instead, Jesus took these emotions as a burden along with our sins.

Our sin prevents us from making heaven a familiar home. 

God’s love creates the home where we will live, forever, in His most familiar love and care.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 
(I John 4: 13-14, ESV)

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