During the recent trip our daughter Carolyn and I made to Vancouver we stayed in Coquitlam next to New Westminster with my brother-in-law, Gordon Taylor. Gordon is married to my wife’s sister Isobel, who suffers from Alzheimers Disease.
On two separate days while we were there Carolyn and I went with Gordon to see Isobel in a special facility for Alzheimers patients. It was a 10-minutes drive from his home.
During our first visit, Gordon, wheeled Isobel’s wheelchair into a sun room where we could spend time with her in privacy. We gathered around her, introduced ourselves and talked with her in an effort to make contact. I sang a verse of Jesus Loves Me This I Know, but it did not seem to awaken a response.
On the second visit Gordon took her by elevator to a partially-covered patio one story above her room. In that spot there was sunshine and a slight breeze. Isobel was even less responsive on that second visit but we were all eased by seeing that she is peaceful and receiving good care.
Fifty-five years ago, on December 28, 1957, I had administered the vows of matrimony to Isobel and Gordon. It was a simple but beautiful ceremony in our recently-erected New Westminster church. Gordon and Isobel met when she came from Ontario for a two-week visit with us. She later returned for their wedding.
I was the only male member of Isobel’s family present so I walked her down the aisle and presented her as a stunningly beautiful bride to the groom. Gordon’s former pastor, Rev. C. P. Stewart shared in the wedding. At the heart of the ritual I had the privilege of administering the vows and pronouncing them husband and wife.
Gordon is one of my favorite people. When I arrived in New Westminster in the summer of 1956 he was a young layman of the church. I learned quickly that he had unusual construction skills, and when the congregation hired him to oversee the completion of the partially built sanctuary I witnessed his skill and thoroughness in completing the task.
That wedding was 55 years ago this coming December 28. On our recent visit to British Columbia I saw his quiet faithfulness in caring for the bride he had made pledges to in my presence so long ago. He spoke tenderly and warmly to her. He patted her hand. Once or twice on the first visit she smiled faintly at him as if there was a glimmer of recognition. I wanted to call it a smile of appreciation. As we were leaving she spoke a couple of words under her breath.
Alzheimers Disease is a wasting condition. It robs its victims of their highest, most refined qualities of humanness. We felt a profound sadness as we visited the facility and spent time with Isobel.
But being there did not fill us with despair. We saw some of the workers in action during our visits and observed in them a warmth and a patience which softened the sadness of the situation. And we saw Gordon unselfconsciously fulfilling the vows he had made more than half a century earlier.
Above all, we found comfort in the promise that our Lord who experienced the full measure of human suffering on Calvary, and who in God’s time rose triumphant from his grave, would be with us in our suffering. To 11 of his closest followers who were going to suffer just for being faithful to him he said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
That promise was initially fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is our faith that in ways deeper than we can comprehend Our Lord comes to us in our times of deepest need.
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