Father Kirstin has been blogging about Lent and giving up and taking things on. Like her I stopped giving things up for Lent a while ago. Oh I’ve had my fair share of coffee-free, chocolate-free Lents but to be honest I can’t say that they brought me any closer to God or gave me an understanding of what life was like in the desert for 40 days. And to be honest, they probably both had more to do with the theology of Weightwatchers or to hang a healthier lifestyle on than anything remotely religious. This year everyone seems to be giving up Facebook or Twitter and like Father Kelvin this bewilders me. I learn so much from all social media and appreciate the help and support I get (and give, I hope!) that it would be mad to do without that. I’m sure Jesus agrees.
I have taken things on over the years. In the early days it was probably a Lent Group or saying the Daily Office (long before I was ordained). For a while now I have given up reading fiction and taken on some more serious reading over the Lenten period but to be honest this is more about fitting in some proper reading time and using Lent as the discipline for that. I know I should just do it all the year round, or diary it, but I’m afraid it just never seems to happen. I’ve given financially to charities, to the Bishop’s Lent Appeal, or to a local food bank or homeless collection. To be honest, though, this goes on all year now too as there are more and more good and worthy causes to support.
It did occur to me that I might try and do a bit more parish visiting this Lent. It is so easy to lose track of visiting our housebound and elderly. We have a rota for those who want communion so they are seen every month but we have many more who don’t want communion at home but who need company all the same. I confess I have not always been as good at that as I could. So this morning I took M up to visit her old friend E who has Alzheimer’s and has recently been moved to a Care Home. With the help of my trusty new SatNav we found our way to one of the most remote homes I’ve ever encountered, unless of course you live next door to it in which case it is probably quite easy to find.
E waved enthusiastically to us from the Lounge where the TV blared and the other bewildered sat around in a circle. “Oh hellooooo!” she cried to M. “How lovely to see you. I’m here, you know, and these are my friends.” One lady asked me where she was and where she was to go. Another stood beside me looking very serious and never left. One opened one eye and closed it again, back to her dreams. “Would you like communion?” I asked, but E looked nervous and said, “No thank you. I don’t think that would be a good idea.” “We could go to your room,” I suggested. “But I don’t have a room,” she said plaintively.
We did go to her room, followed by the two ladies who wanted to know who they were and the one who just follows very close. We tried to get them to turn back to the lounge but they couldn’t understand. M took them by the arms and gently led them back to the TV and beat a hasty retreat. E showed us her room, twice, and the en-suite bathroom three or four times. Well, it was very nice. We tried asking questions about the past but even that was too difficult for her. She was terribly confused and chattered nonstop about the zimmer (a gift from her father she thought), about bad children who might break in because the window was open, and other strange and wonderful things.
And then… “Do you know what I wish?” A long pause. “I wish I had a baby!” This little old lady of 83ish wanted a baby! Where did that come from, I wonder? M tells me she lost two of her own children as young adults so perhaps it came from there. Perhaps she just really loves babies and would like to cuddle and care for someone else. “I wish I had a baby,” she said again. “That’s what I wish.” And I wished I could grant her that wish. I really wished I could place a baby in her arms and watch her face light up with joy. I couldn’t grant her wish. Then I spotted the white fluffy teddy beside her bed and took Ted and suggested she give it a cuddle instead. E buried her face in its fur and rocked it gently. It wasn’t the same as a baby. It was a poor substitute but for a moment there was love.
On the way home M said her mind was a rest because it had been so good to see E settled in a good place. “I’ve been worrying about her and I couldn’t get to visit but now I see she is safe and has friends around her. Much better than living alone.” We agreed that she was safe and as happy as could be.
My hope is that this Lent I will make time to visit more. To hear stories and agree that zimmers are useful and admire bathrooms and put teddies into old ladies’ arms. Far more use than losing a few pounds or losing touch with my friends.