Yesterday, my mother-in-law, Mabel, died. She had suffered from Alzheimer's Disease for years before I met her, and, when my fiancee (as she then was) and I stayed with my now-sister-in-law, I got to spend a little time with her. She was able to understand who I was in her daughter's life, to take pleasure in feeling that we had, after a fair number of vicissitudes, found our way to each other at last. Her death came after an unexpected sharp illness, and my wife and I had to get a flight the very same day. We bolted from New York, and found ourselves in North Carolina a few hours later.
In meeting with Mabel's friends and family, and hearing their stories about her, I felt that I finally got to, if only indirectly, know a woman I'd only glimpsed. I was asked to help her long-term caregiver, a very kind, loving woman, select a passage of scripture, and also to find a poem by Robert Frost, Mabel's favorite poet. Here's what I came up with.
The scripture verse was Romans 8: 24-28:
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.The last sentence is especially important to me, especially after I read Susan Howatch's novel Absolute Truths, in which, based on a sermon by Dean Alex Wedderspoon, she glossed the passage as:
suggest[ing] that the sentence "All things work together for good to them that love God" was slightly mistranslated, and that the translation should have been: "All things intermingle for good to them that love God." This would mean that the good and bad were intermingling to create a synergy--or, in other words: in the process of intermingling, the good and the bad formed something else. The bad didn't become less bad, and the dark didn't become less dark--one had to acknowledge this, acknowledge the reality of the suffering. But the light emanating .from a loving God created a pattern on the darkness, and in that pattern was the meaning, and in the meaning lay the energy which would generate the will to survive.As to the Robert Frost, this is the one that spoke to me:
Nature's first green is gold,Vogue la Galère, Mabel. Let your ship sail free.
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
That post was a short tribute to my mother-in-law, and rumination on a passage that I love. May I also recommend Charles Gore's treatment of the chapter?