The Light of Life
Happy April everyone!
I am so happy to see you here today.
As some of you may know, I have just returned from a visit to Australia.
I stayed with my sister, who has just moved to Brisbane.
They live in a house with a big wood deck that goes all around the house.
The house is on a steep hill in the countryside, so the wood decking actually looks out into a forest of tree canopies.
You can see all kinds of tropical birds in the tops of the trees, right there in front of you.
I recorded this quickly the day before we came back to Japan.
Because the weather is so good for most of the year there, people tend to spend a lot of time outside.
Like many people, my sister’s family actually do most of their cooking and eating outside on the wood deck.
We ate outside nearly every night – even when it rained.
It was so beautiful there, and I was together with most of my family.
Even though I knew that I was just visiting, it would have been so nice to just stay there like that.
It was a place that I just really wanted to be.
Actually, the reason I went to Australia this time was to visit my mother.
She has just moved 2000 kms from Melbourne, where I grew up, to live with my sister.
Mum has dementia, so it has been a difficult transition for her.
She is not only forgetful, but is continually confused about where she is, and why she is there.
Until recently, she had been living in her own apartment within an elderly care facility.
It would have been possible for mum to move into a different unit where she would have received full time care.
However, when my sister moved last year, it became possible for her to look after mum instead.
We felt very strongly that this would help mum to maintain a degree of independence.
But we also feared that if she had moved into full care in that facility, she would lose her remaining independence and her dementia would progress very quickly.
So, we believed that living together with family would provide her with real meaning and purpose for her life.
Now that she has moved, sometimes it is like there is a light shining in her mind, and she seems to be very clear, and understands things;
but at other times, her mind seems to darken.
At those times, she seems very frail and insecure.
She feels all alone, and frets that she can’t look after herself anymore.
At those times, she is confused and thinks she will have to move to get help.
She forgets that she has already come to live with her daughter.
It can be difficult to see this change in a person who had always been such a source of strength and security to everyone around her.
On the one hand, there is a feeling of helplessness, because we know that we can’t change her degeneration.
We can’t give her back her memory;
and we can’t stop her being confused.
However, it is very clear that there are things that we can do for mum.
When she is clear and understanding, we can celebrate life together with her.
We talk about what we are doing now;
and we remember memories of the past together.
These are times of joy, filled with thanksgiving for the life that God is giving us.
And mum has always been ready to express her gratitude to God.
However, when the lights in mum’s mind darken, we can still be there to comfort her.
We can hold her;
We can encourage her.
We can tell her that she is not alone;
gently remind her that she is surrounded by her loving family.
We can’t make her understand her situation;
but we can be there with her until that understanding comes.
In this way, many times, over and over again, we can shine a little light and help her to remember that she is where she actually wants to be.
We can help her to trust that she is, actually, in the right place.
We can all get confused;
We can be unsure of who we are.
We can feel in the dark about where we are supposed to be in life.
We might lose direction about what we are supposed to be doing.
In those times, gentle words of comfort might not bring immediate understanding.
They probably won’t lift the clouds of uncertainty or confusion straight away.
But just being with someone can help them through their time of trouble;
A light that shines into their darkness.
This light can bring comfort, hope and peace.
This light can give strength to wait, and then to move forward in life.
Last week was Easter.
An important Scripture that is often read in this season is from the Prophet Isaiah.