Most of the time Finnean claims 77 as his age, although 72 and 79 have also been floated. We met because Finnean (whose name is changed and whose picture is not above) is the father of a close friend. Finnean has Alzheimers. His care requires him to live hours from his previous social circles. These things have made us friends. His wife died a few years ago. He does the best he can to face this part of the journey without the woman who would have known what to do. “Everything she touched,” he told me, “turned to gold. She could do anything. Anything.”
While he could, Finnean regaled me with tales. He taught in the North on the reservations for years. He lived in Madagascar, South Africa, Quebec. His family was Scottish, first generation immigrants to Canada. He told me of childhood mischief, hockey games against priests in cassocks; an unfair advantage in knocking down pucks, and safari mishaps.
Finnean still tells me stories but they’re different now. Less bravado. More confusion. Depending on the day, he is paranoid and afraid, bored and depressed, exhausted, or unable to sit still. The constant is confusion.
A few weeks ago he began to tell me of his mother’s death. Without explanation, it became his father’s death. Finnean couldn’t tell me how old he was when his father died, just that he was an adult. Sitting in his blue hospital gown with the morning sun streaming through the windows, he became a boy again. A little boy, wailing for the loss of his father.
“I want my father. My father always came. He came to my games. He came to see me swim. He would do anything to be there. Change his shifts at work. I would look up into the bleachers and there he was. As soon as I saw him, I felt I could do anything. I miss my father…”
It is Lent. A time for rending. A time to search faithfully for the lost coin.
“I feel like I want to return to my first love,” another friend of mine said of Lent. We felt the same thing. We love Jesus, but we are caught up in the business of life. We find ourselves staring at the service to be done instead of the One we serve.
There are times with Finnean that are sad, but the day he cried for his father wasn’t one of them. That day, he wasn’t trapped in a hospital or in a failing body, he was a little boy wanting his father. Into the indignities of dying came a few moments of release. A window of light, adoration, and love.
I think of Matt Redman’s song, “Undignified.” Finnean didn’t ask to have Alzheimers but in preparation for his King, he is becoming undignified. Yet when everything is stripped away, it is not nothing that remains, it is love.
No matter our deserts or confusions, love is the water we seek. For Lent, I want to be like Finnean was that day. Undignified and unashamed. A child at the feet of Jesus.
Copyright 2015, Michelle Dawn Jones