Sands of time

Two days ago I telephoned my elderly uncle in Canada for a little chat. I like to check on his welfare every few months, simply to make sure that he is well in himself. First Uncle, as I call him in Hokkien, is now 90 years of age, and I can hardly believe that he is nearing his century. His younger brother, my father, died when he was 57 years old.

First Uncle asked after my mum. The last time he had seen Mum was October 2008, when she went to Canada with me and the rest of the family for a holiday. At that time, Mum was already suffering from moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, and I remember her and First Aunt conversing with each other. I am not sure that they knew what they were talking about as what snippets of conversation I caught between them made no sense at all. First Aunt was herself suffering from a type of dementia at that time, and sadly passed on last year.

Speaking with First Uncle has made me think about time, and specifically how it seems to gather a kind of personality of its own as one grows greyer. When one is a child, time seems to stretch for eternity. When one is an adult in one’s more mature years, time seems to be something one looks back upon and one also wonders whether one is simply biding one’s time on earth before passing on.

When I think about time, I do not hark back in the hope of repeating what I have experienced in the past. However, I do think of what has passed and what must come to pass before one dies. I think about this in particular when I consider Mum’s journey with Alzheimer’s in the latter years of her life.

My thoughts circle round and round over some, to me, very pertinent questions. How has the disease affected her ability to make sense of her daily life? Is she capable of forming thoughts at all, perhaps not in words since she has lost much of her vocabulary but in mind images? Can she feel the presence of her Lord? Can she still pray to Him and worship Him in her own way? How aware is she of herself as a person in her own right?

I think upon these questions and many more follow. And then I wonder if perhaps one’s life is simply not a cycle of waiting out the inevitable draining of the hour glass of time. What triggers these thoughts? I cannot always tell, but today it was a song with a soulful tune that I heard on radio while washing up the breakfast dishes.

It makes me wonder then why we were put on earth simply to wait out time. I am just an ordinary human being, merely playing a tiny role on the world stage of life; but surely the reason I am still on earth is that God has a purpose for me. I cannot imagine that He has a big project that He wants me to undertake; I don’t think I am important enough for that! But perhaps my contributions will consist of a series of little ‘works’ that He wants me to fulfil. Whatever it is, I am ready.

Which takes me nicely to a phone call I received two days back from a Chinese girl who had stayed at Blenheim Lodge as a B&B guest two or three years ago. She rang me out of the blue and told me how friendly and kind I had been to her when she was staying with us. She told me that God had blessed her and others like her by using me in this job – making people feel welcome and at home with us. She also said that God’s use of me in this way is His blessing upon me. What an uplifting thought!

Working in a B&B is a very mundane job. But perhaps little actions which may seem to be of no consequence within the broader perspective of life do matter after all. Maybe the sands of time I have been allocated will be dignified by small gestures that will help and encourage people I encounter in a way in which I cannot and can never comprehend.

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