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Reflections: occasional thoughts... by The Rev'd Canon Jenny Chalmers

Updated: Apr 11

My father died after suffering with dementia for about ten years. The passage of his decline will be very familiar to many of you. Repeating things he’d just said, illogically arguing, prowling around the house at night as he confused night with day, becoming violently angry, and feeling lost and vulnerable. Finally, when his safety became compromised, we reluctantly followed the Psycho-Geriatricians advice and put him into the care of a Dementia unit. Later, when Dad could no longer walk, he went into Continuing care.


All of my life Dad was a constant. Without any words being spoken, I understood the look on his face, the mood he was in, his humour, what he thought. Whenever he saw me, there was that particular look in his eye, an intimate, welcoming, warm smile. 


For as much of that time, as often as I could, I saw Dad at least weekly. Later, after we’d moved to Taupō  I saw him less frequently. As the disease progressed, if he couldn’t exactly remember my name, he remembered the name he called me when I was very little.


And then the day came when Dad didn’t recognise me. On that day, Dad was a little bit frightened or perhaps bewildered by my intimacy. (Who was I, that I kissed him?) 


The post resurrection stories remind me a little of that time. The disorienting grief that led Mary to the garden, her inability to recognise the gardener.  The friends who walked to Emmaus, and although they felt the warming in their hearts as they talked, they didn’t recognise the stranger who walked with them, until they broke the bread and drank the wine. Thomas demanded tangible proof and was invited to place his hands in the gaping wounds. The nets that overflowed with fish after the disciples took the strangers advice, followed by breakfast on the beach of grilled fish.


The post resurrection stories are like the stories of our loved ones gradual deaths and our grief. They’re muddled and poignant. The grieving disciples are confused, disorientated, and bewildered. In each story, after a time, the disciples recognise Jesus in some small action, some intimate disclosure. In the midst of the sorrow, grief, doubt and confusion that follows a sudden harrowing death, Jesus was revealed. Each person understood and recognised Jesus in their own way. 


Augustine wrote si comprehendis non est Deus or 'If you think you have grasped him, it is not God you have grasped'. Like the first disciples gathering around the table, we know that in our confusions, worries, and anxieties, that if we keep treating strangers as angels, stay open to the moments we are inextricably warmed, then we too might gain a partial glimpse of the mystery we call God. 

                                                                                                         Jenny Chalmers


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