“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Aunt Peg

My Aunt Peg died last night. She had lived a long life, much of it alone as her husband died relatively early on in their marriage and she never had any children. She grew up as a tough kid on the streets of Philadelphia. An orphan, she was taken in by a woman everyone in the family, at least the older ones, spoke of respectfully as Aunt Hattie. She must have been quite a woman herself. A big heart to take in these girls (my grandmother lived with her as well)and the toughness to rasie these girls to become the women they became.

The last few years of my aunt's life were particularly difficult. The loss of independence coming with moving into a Christian retirement home was a severe assault. Her faith was never really something that the family was entirely sure of. I often offered to sneek in a Brandy Alexander (her favorite drink, and I think I was only half joking) but she was worried she would get thrown out if she was found out. But she was a tough pragmatist and realized it was for the best. Ultimately she embraced her new home. Things appeared to be going about as well as they might, when she awoke one morning, at about age 91, totally blind. I don't think functionally she ever really recovered from that. But then, how would one? A younger person would think of the years ahead. A 91 year old thinks of the years remaining, and trying to live them out with some degree of comfort.

I remember visiting her (I live in California, she in New Jersey) several months after the onset of the blindness. She spent a great deal of time crying over the difficulties she was facing. She just kept saying, "What did I do for these things to happen to me?", and "I just wish the Lord would take me," although I am not entirely sure she knew what he would do with her once he had her. During my visit, however, I remember having a discussion with her which I think helped her, and certainly has caused me to stop and think over the intervening months and years. She spoke about how discouraged she was and that there was no purpose anymore to her life. I asked her what her purpose was before she became blind and she went silent. "It seems to me your purpose before you were blind was to try to do what's right, and to acknowledge the Lord in everything. So even though you are now blind, your purpose in life is still the same." I think I helped her a bit because she didn't cry as much during the rest of our visit.

You know the requirements of the Lord for us are pretty much the same independent of who we are mentally, physically, etc. Micah 6:8 says "And what does Jehovah require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" People with cognitive disabilities are well able to do what Jehovah requires of them. I, however, see them as disabled, devalued, damaged. Yet I myself also struggle to walk humbly.


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