Mary Can’t Sleep

“Mary.”

The Teacher had spoken my name.

Only He, among all others,
had no fear of me that day.
Standing alongside those demons,
He was able to see my light.
His light.
The Light.

My tortured spirit wanted to be silent.
To simply stop screaming and die.
Hope was dead and dark as cave air.
In my heart, I cried out…
“Rabbouni, please help me!”

Then He called me. “Mary.”
The embittered one.
How had He known me?
I will never forget that voice.
It was completely still
yet stirred my soul to dancing.
And I made a vow to follow Him forever.

I saw many, many others, like me.
He fed, healed, forgave, and loved them.
They were poor, lost and unheard.
All of them were Mary to me.

He told us He would die. We didn’t understand.
His mother knew. Oh, the pain of her silence!

I stood beside her, beneath His cross.
My crushed heart could hardly offer support.
It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
My God, His poor mother’s heart.

“It is finished,” He said, and He died.
We had His blood on our clothing.

I wanted to leave this heartless world
and go to Him again, wherever He had gone.

They took His body and anointed it,
laying it in a new tomb sealed with a boulder.
I knew this finality. I felt the stone-shut soul.

Wanting to die with Him and all my hopes,
I came back early and wept.
But the stone had been rolled away.
The tomb was empty. The soldiers…
They had taken the beloved body.
I ran to tell the brothers.
They came and saw it, left the last shards
of their peace and walked away.

I stayed and cried in the gardens outside the tomb.
He had wept in a garden, too. What had He known?
What had He felt? Had anyone spoken His name?
Oh, how I longed to tell Him,
“Teacher, you mean so much to me.
Thank you for loving me, for saving me,
for seeing me, for calling out my name.”

Drawn to the tomb, I saw something white.
Two strangers in gleaming robes
sat where the body had been.
One asked me why I was crying,
and I told them it was because
they had taken Him to another place.

Then I heard it, coming from the garden.
The only one there was a gardener.
I had not noticed Him before, in my grief.
Dawn’s first light was behind Him,
and I could not see His face.
But then He spoke.

“Mary.”

How could I forget the sound that had saved me,
the only One who had known me for who I am?
How could I return a portion of the blessing
He had given to me the morning my life had begun?

“Rabbouni!”

I spoke His name.
My Lord and My God!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah.

I think I may never sleep again.

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I Will Love You

(For the care partners)

As we share this time together in the dark before the dawn, 
and I can’t but question whether I’ve got strength to carry on,
may I never stop believing I can hold a solemn vow
to keep dancing though I’m grieving, to be present in the Now.
And so help me, I will hear you if you don’t know what to say,
as my spirit lingers near you when your mind has walked away.
I’ll be singing to remind you of the promises we made;
when you’re lost, I’ll come to find you, calm your soul when you’re afraid.                 
Father God will not forsake me when my heart’s about to bleed;
should deep sorrow overtake me, grace will fly to meet my need.
Though dementia’s storm may shake me, it can’t touch the truth you’ve heard.
So, my darling, if you’ll take me, do it only at my word.

I will love you in the rising, I will love you in the sleep,

I will love you in the shallows, I will love you in the deep.

I will love you in the spirit, I will love you in the breath.

I will love you in the living, I will love you in the death.

Lester Potts 32

Watercolor art by Lester E. Potts, Jr., an artist who had Alzheimer’s.

To Keep The Vigil Through

(A poetic gift of hope for Sunday morning)

Set deeply in the kernel of this life
a solitary vesicle of death
lies silent as a Sabbath after strife,
as air beyond the body’s final breath.

Through loving, losing, letting go of fear
one may attain the courage and the sight
to face this darkened threshold and draw near,
to step inside this tomb and see the light.

Life’s final judgement or its greatest grace
thus hides within the windows of today:
to see the image of a dying face –
to stay and weep; to love, not turn away…

to find inside the ever-urgent now
a Presence much more powerful than death;
to draw as one with lungs of other lives
the sweet communal comforts of a Breath.

Now look upon the windows of the heart
and see not only other faces, hues,
but also one’s own colors in the art
that, undiscarded, God intends to use.

The brush must dip into a tear-gray well
to find its deeper sediments of blue…
if in the sunrise one would hope to dwell
one must find faith to keep the vigil through.

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The Woman at the Well

I’m thankful that one doesn’t need to be a philosopher or theologian to ponder and muse about truth. Truth is accessible even to the simple and the broken, like me.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (see John 4:4-30) I believe He saw her fully as a person, in contrast to the way she was regarded by society of the day. Jesus’ gaze is the ultimate de-stigmatizer, because pure Love holds no stigma against another.

Truly seeing her meant seeing the truth of her existence — her weaknesses, failings and faults — and how those were keeping her from being the person she was created to be. But loving her no less because of them.

I believe Jesus’ gaze is a gaze of mercy, not of condemnation (In fact, my life depends on that being the case).

Truly seeing her also meant seeing her potential, which could be realized only in the context of a relationship with God that He was offering her.

Particularly important for us today is the understanding that He was actively seeking a relationship with her, one whom society marginalized, and through that relationship, her restoration to the wholeness of unending life. He was seeking her healing, her wellness, her redemption, her fully embodied personhood…a personhood that would have been very different than that of most people in His cohort.  He wanted the best for her and sought to help her achieve it through this right and essential relationship. He loved her unconditionally, despite conditions leveled on her by society, and those brought on by her own misguided choices.

When you read this passage of scripture, do you get a profound sense of your own brokenness and need? I assure you, I do.

Are we doing the same in our time for the stigmatized, the marginalized, the misguided, the broken? I’m not sure about you, but I know, in some sense, this description also fits me. I am the woman at the well, seeking living water which will quench this aching thirst of mine forever.

Lord, please give us eyes to see that we all are in this category, thirsting deeply for the living waters of relationship with You so that we may embody fully the personhood wherein we were created, which at some deep level is the personhood of You, the Human One.

Amen.

WomanAtWell

Broken Pieces

Broken pieces of Somebodys fall in patterns on the ground,
shards of hope and scattered heartache for forgiveness, never found,
all that lingered of the image we had wanted folks to see,
much of which bears a resemblance to the broken parts of me.
Deep regrets for selfish actions that put others at a loss,
passing pain on to our neighbors, strapping someone to our cross,
letting much too large a distance grow between reality
and the best we have to offer of the ones we’re born to be.
But among life’s shattered sections lies a truth for troubled days:
broken pieces fit together in the most creative ways.
Mix some sorrow from a brother with the weeping of a sis’,
add the pierced heart of a mother and a father’s face you miss –
then before your eyes is made a new mosaic sure to bless,
drawing texture, line and color from the fruits of brokenness.

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Do You Know Me Now?

Cognitive Dynamics is pleased to offer our award-winning 27:30 minute documentary short, Do You Know Me Now?, for free access on our Youtube Channel, CognitiveDynamics1, at the link below.

Do You Know Me Now? shows ways in which care partners can connect in the moment and have a mutually fulfilling relationship – one which discovers the person beneath the disease and builds upon remaining abilities and personality traits. Life is about relationships, and these relationships need not be lost due to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Do You Know Me Now? explores relationships and personhood, taking a novel look at what it means to be a person with dementia who is still very much alive and possessing those traits upon which relationships may be built, even late into the disease. The project highlights stories of people living with dementia and their loved ones who have found ways to connect — who have discovered joy, beauty and self-expression despite the losses.

Do You Know Me Now? reminds us that while cognitive ability diminishes, deep personhood lives on.

The film, directed and co-produced by Canadian film maker, Judith Murray, and edited and co-produced by American film maker, Brian Covert, features Ed and Naomi Feil (Founder of Validation Therapy), Rita and James Houston (Founder of Regent College), Joan and Cathie Borrie (Author of The Long Hello), and Lester and Ethelda Potts (Parents of Cognitive Dynamics Founder, Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN).

In This Very Room

In this very room. We are together.

Perhaps all come reluctantly. At someone else’s bidding. Or insistence. Perhaps it only seems so. Truth be told, we need to be here. With each other.

The air here is warm, shared. The spirit open, compassionate. The voices diverse, authentic.

No one is enabled, yet all are supported. No one is pitied, yet all are heard. No one is compelled, yet all are forthcoming.

We eat the common bread and share the cup. We are honest. “Now” exists, and that is all.

Across this backdrop spreads a story. We listen. Not just to hear, but to know. To be known. We listen for our throaty voices. To catch something familiar. Something new.

Hearing the rawness of it makes us cry. Because we are denuded. And losing skin always hurts. We feel the shredding of another.

We go to the dark places together. We need to know the whole story. Nothing is withheld. Because we have to help each other heal. And because each one of us carries a light. And the light is metered out so that all of us must share it.

What we see here changes perspectives. This is real. This is more beautiful and terrible than “I’m fine” and “Let’s get together for coffee” and “So good to see you” and “I’ll call you when I’m in town.” No, this is not a promise or a regret or a wish. This is the bloody aftermath.

And I enter. I go there because something in me rises up and reaches down and stretches out and takes it all, embracing, to itself.

I go, not out of valiance or bravery or breeding or martyrdom. I go because something out there is looking back at me with the greatest sorrow ever shown by any eyes, and all at once the deepest well of kindness.

I go because a man is running out to meet the son who fell as good as dead, yet lay there looking for eyes in that great dark nothing of a face. The gaze that had always seen him and everyone and everything in the light of love.

Because that’s how it has to be when all you have is the bloody dirt or the cesspool or the grave. The eyes have to be up there seeing you, seeing the light in you, and loving that feeble little flame.

No water. No first aid. No money. I am empty. Yet I go. And what I bring is more than food and balm and riches.

Offering this empty cup of my life, somehow I know, here, in this very room, there is a presence that will fill it. To overflowing. So that we all may drink of it and live. Here for the first time I know that all I need bring is emptiness – acknowledged, wept over, accepted, offered. And then this truth: it will always be filled while others stand in need.

And it does come. Through the words and tears and sweat of the story. Though the candle-warmed air we all breathe in. Through the reaching out of hands and validating words. Through holding and being held.

We are swept up together in this soul stirring wind. We move to the center. We lift our faces to the light of the great all seeing eyes of love. We pray, Thy will be done. And it is. And it has been. And it will be.

Because it is. And because we are, too.

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