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Dear Gary,

It is with sadness too deep for words that you, my friend, mourn the death of your beloved wife. Through the months and days to come, you will think of Verdeen and all that she was to you.

She was your bride. She was the mother of your children. She was a role model and mentor. She was a skilled craftswoman. She was the love of your life.
But do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

At much too young an age, your beloved began to change as she suffered the progressive disease of Alzheimer’s. How many times did you hear someone say, “She isn’t the person she once was”?

But do they know that the person, Verdeen, was—and still is—so much more?

How difficult it must have been when you understood that your wife could no longer be a homemaker but would, instead, be a patient in the care center.

But, oh my friend, do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

Do you know that as a baptized Christian, Verdeen has an identity that never changes no matter her appearance, abilities, or circumstances in life? Illness did not change who Verdeen really is. Nor did her funeral. Verdeen will always be the person she has been since her Baptism. On that day, she was washed with water and the Word, given faith, and dressed in righteousness and purity. She was marked with the sign of the cross and made a daughter and heir of God because of what Jesus her Savior and Lord did for her.

Think of it, my friend! Jesus invited both you and your beloved wife to pray, “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” The Apostle John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

But the world does not know who Verdeen is because it does not know God. If the world does not know God the Father, it cannot know His sons and daughters.

My friend, you are not like the world. Even though it has been difficult to watch the changes in your wife, you treated her with the honor and dignity that an heir of God deserves. It would be a lie to say that you didn’t suffer with her, or that you never experienced frustration, impatience, and even anger. But when we see another human being in the way that God does, our attitude is transformed. Indeed, each human life is a treasure for whom Christ gave all He had.

Dear friend, in all your years of courtship and marriage, did you see that Verdeen was dressed in Christ’s Robe of Righteousness and proclaimed “holy” in the eyes of God? Yes, I think you did. That is why you held her in high esteem and put her needs before your own. That is why you read to her, held her hand, looked at family photos with her, brought her flowers, sang hymns with her, wiped her bloody nose, combed her hair, and prayed with her.

Here, my friend, is your comfort and peace. You did not love as the world loves. You loved with compassion which means to “suffer with.” You loved more than a bride, the mother of your children, a role model and mentor, a craftswoman, and the romance of your life. You loved a daughter of God who now enjoys her “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [her]” (1 Peter 1:4).

My friend, you defended the life of your beloved and honored her as her Father desired. You helped her navigate her earthly journey until her Father said: Well done, good and faithful husband. Now let Me carry My daughter home.

Oh, and there is one more thing, says the Lord: You will see her again.

Image credit:
gerardnadal.com

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older coupleIt has been said that we are the sum total of all that we’ve experienced.  But, if we have no memory, are we less human?

What makes me “me” and you “you?”  Is it how we look?  What we do?  What we say?  But, what if we are not beautiful in the eyes of the beholder?  What if we can’t do anything?  What if we can’t speak?  Are we, then, less human?

Gary is my friend.  He is married to Dena, the love of his life, but theirs has become a journey of bitter terror, cureless medicines, and lost conversations.  Over 30 years ago, radiation was used to remove a tumor from Dena’s optic nerve.  Her brain compensated… for a while; then gradually Dena settled into a child-like dependence on her husband.  Gary explains that with darkness comes anxious wakefulness.  “If she sleeps, what more will she forget?”

Memories once shared are replaced with excruciating embarrassment.  Has all that made my friend’s wife “human” been snatched away?

There are those who think so.  For some, losing their memory is the death of personhood.

I do not agree.  Dena’s personhood – her very identity – is not her memory.  Nor is it her appearance, her health or, for that matter, her sexuality.

Dena’s identity is this: She is a creation of God and a treasure of Jesus Christ.  Dena’s identity never changes, no matter the circumstances of her life.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we remember who we are.  What matters is Whose we are.  The Creator and Redeemer of our lives will never forget His own.

Nor does He forget those who are faithful in caring for His own.

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