Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“This I Know” first appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Touchstone.
This I Know
Bobby Winters on the Love of Jesus & the Love of a Mother
wo years ago we moved Momma into a nursing home. She didn’t want to go. She kept asking, hinting, yearning to go home. It was heartbreaking to hear her ask, but it was more heartbreaking when she stopped. She lost names, she lost people, and then she lost home.
We climb the mountain on faith, and then we see the valley on the other side; but when we climb down the hill, we do it on faith again. We can’t remember what we saw, but there is no other direction to go but toward the valley.
Momma taught us, my brother and me, about Jesus. The first song I remember learning was “Jesus Loves Me.” It is not a masterpiece of music; it is not a marvel of the poet’s art. I’ve not used it as a foundation to learn a great deal about either.
But Momma did teach us to have a foundation of love. If my brother and I ever met Jesus, it was not through the dulcet tones of a musical instrument or through the effort of any preacher, but through the love of a mother.
We went to see her for Thanksgiving. She is going through a time of changes, and with dementia, there is only one direction of change. We know it’s coming; there is only a question of when. God gives us ambiguity as a mercy.
As we enter the door to her room, I can tell that she is happy to see us. She doesn’t know our names; at least, she can’t say them. And I can’t say that she knows who we are. But she looks out and there is love in her face.
“How pretty,” she says, looking at my wife and daughters. “I love you.”
I sit by her side and hold her hand. It’s warm now. When she could still string sentences together, she would complain about being cold. Now the ambient temperature of the room is about 85 degrees and she’s covered with a blanket, and her hand is warm.
“Has the preacher been by?” I ask. I don’t know why. Her look is blank.
“Father was here,” she says. This is followed by a series of words, none connecting to the one before it and no grammar to hold them together. My brother and I are confused because she never called her father “Father.” He was alwaysalways“Daddy.”
“Jesus came,” she adds with the same stream of nonsense.
Then she looks around the room again, at my brother, my wife, my daughters, my son-in-law, and me.
“I love you,” she says.
“They are good people here,” she says. “They help me.” She’s talking about her nurses. They feed her and change her.
“Jesus came,” she says.
I take my hand and pull her hair back from her forehead. It’s pure white, like snow.
“I love you,” she says.
This is the woman who dressed me in paisley, with a bowtie, and shiny, black dress shoes which then left black marks on the sidewalk as she dragged me to church. She is the woman I stood beside as we sang hymns: “Oh! Precious is the flow/ That makes me white as snow/ No other fount I know/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Left with Love
God breathed the world into being. He created it with the Word. He knows us as we actually are. His word for me is the very thing that I am. We use words to create things, to claim things, to control things. But often those same words with which we claim things are barriers to them.
Momma has lost her words for us. All that is left is the love. It will be left with us when she meets Jesus face-to-face.
Bobby N. Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.
“This I Know” first appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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