Seeing how mistaken it is to place value on people by their contribution, gifts or response confirms an instinct about the full humanity of the stillborn (my reflection on 26th July) but may also help make sense when faced with dementia (my post on 14th July, where I was puzzled by the absence of significant theological reflection on the predicament).
I now keep noticing that there are in fact people visible wrestling with the issue. Last month, the Church Times had a composite review of three books, one of which I’ve ordered, and another Blog quoted Christian Bryden (who has Alzheimer’s) making just this point in a newsletter of a Scottish Churches’ project:
Where does this journey begin and at what stage can you deny me my selfhood and my spirituality? As I lose my identity in the world around me, which is so anxious to define me by what I say or do rather than who I am, I can seek an identity by simply being me, a person created in the image of God. My spiritual self is reflected in the divine and given meaning as a transcendent being.
As I travel towards the dissolution of myself, my personality, my very ‘essence’, my relationship with God needs increasing support from you, my other in the body of Christ. Don’t abandon me at any stage… sing alongside me, touch me, pray with me, reassure me of your presence… I may not be able to affirm you, to remember who you are or whether you have visited me. But you have brought Christ to me. If I enjoy your visit, why must I remember it? Why must I remember who you are? Is it to satisfy your own need for identity? If I forget a pleasant memory it does not mean it was not important to me.
Meanwhile, although my mother does not have dementia, her new doctor’s changes to her medication has made her much brighter, and at the moment the walnut tree by the entrance to St Nicolas’ churchyard is heavy with what appears to be fruit.