Mother, who at 80 years of age, has suffered from the indignities of Alzheimer’s Disease over the past 15 or more years, but is nonetheless still able to recognise well-loved songs and hymns. It was Christmastime when I last sang to Mother. I always knew when she enjoyed a particular song – for her face became animated, replacing an often vacant expression complete with closed eyes and unheeding ears.
One of Mother’s favourite hymns is ‘Amazing Grace’. When I was little, Mother told me how she came to the Lord as a young teenager. She had been swimming in the sea when she got into difficulties and was sure she would drown. Remembering from her Methodist school’s teaching about the grace and mercy of God, she cried out to Him and promised that she serve Him all her life if only He would save her from a watery grave. God saved my mother.
As Mother grew from teenager to young adult to wife, mother, and grandmother, she never forgot that the Lord had saved not just her physical body, but also her soul. Jesus came to earth to bring us salvation through His death on the cross, where, once and for all, He took upon His shoulders the burden of sin that separates everyone from a holy God. We are God’s creation, and He loves us so much that He wants to be in a loving relationship with us. God is a holy God, thus reconciliation with Him can only happen with the removal of personal sin. Jesus’ sacrifice took that sin away from all who believe in Him. His resurrection three days later, and the reason why Christians remember and celebrate Easter, is a promise of our own citizenship of heaven because we believe in Him.
I remembered when Mother first broke the news to us about her descent into Alzheimer’s. She did it bravely, calmly, and with a certain strength of mind and spirit despite such devastating news. Until she lost her ability to read, we often found her quietly at prayer, head bowed, with her Bible in hand. She displayed humility under God’s hand, which must have felt very heavy indeed. Yet never once did we hear Mother complain or protest against the injustices of life or God. She had given her life to Him, and she believed that God would care for her all the days of her life.
Easter is a great time for remembering God’s amazing grace toward mankind: the grace of life over death through His gift of His Son, Jesus Christ; and the grace of His presence, succour, and peace through some of the most devastating events of human life. For Mother, God’s amazing grace has followed her through all the highs and lows of life: from suffering the vicissitudes of World War II to a wedding that saw a groom, best man, and six bridesmaids smiling widely one bright sunny day, and on to the higgledy piggledy ups and downs of family life until early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and her subsequent mental deterioration. God, without doubt, is with her – and it is His amazing grace that is sustaining her now as it has done heretofore.
When I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ to Mother whilst feeding her dinner, I could see that sparkle of old in her. She obviously recognised the tune, and it would be nice to think that she actually, at that moment, was also able to make sense of the lyrics and grasp their meaning. And why not? God is God after all!
(Susan Boyle sings ‘Amazing Grace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0gLntLIBYw.)