For people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease or in the end stages of a terminal illness, life is often placed into a different perspective. Things may not be as important as they once were. Relationships can take on new meaning. Pleasure may be found in simpler things- an enjoyable meal, music from the past, someone taking the time to hold their hand. And somehow the human condition is distilled into its essence, the need for relationship, to love and be loved. There is a camaraderie found in such places that is not often replicated elsewhere. To a world which, as resources become more stretched, increasingly espouses the "survival of the fittest" mentality, I would declare that such communities prove that every person has worth and value, and the world would be a poorer place without them.
In the west we shy away from death. It's neatly packaged and hidden. We need hardly be reminded at all that our lives are finite. We're constantly encouraged to concentrate on the things of this world. But they're transient and fail to bring lasting satisfaction.
In the course of the last two weeks I also had contact with another woman who was hospitalised following a horrendous motor vehicle accident. This lady did not have any cognitive impairment and the prognosis for her recovery was good. Raised in a nominally Christian home, she explained to me that at the time of the accident, which she remembered completely, she was aware of a presence surrounding her, as if holding her, and she felt in her mind the assurance that she would live.This has reawoken her faith in Christ and she realises that some aspects of her life need to change. She told me that she now has no fear of death, and a firm belief in an afterlife. I pray that she will recover, both physically and spiritually.
Life is short. But those of us who know Jesus as our Saviour know that this earthly life is just the beginning of our life with Christ that stretches into the joys of eternity. The apostle Peter tells us:
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached to you."
(1 Peter 1:23-25)