dock at sunset

“My, O my, O my….” Mother cries, not wanting to mimic sacred words if she remembered them. She was always modest and self-effacing, though you might not know that in her dementia, when all self-restraint and impulse control have disappeared with short-term memory. Family remember that her grandmother or grandfather Doane, depending on who is telling the story, used to rock in his rocking chair and moan those same words.

The endurance of the sufferer is rarely exceeded by the endurance of the commiserator. Who can stand by and watch for long when a person is in pain? If there is even the slightest indication that the person in pain craves the attention of the watcher, there is even less tolerance. While this is true of good people, is it true of a good God? If the book of Job provides an indication, who has more patience with a self-pitying sufferer than God? Certainly not Job’s “friends” who in various ways try to persuade Job that his suffering is his own fault.

Mother’s fall and broken neck, while she made her daily trip to the restaurant for a noon meal (and saved half of the food for her evening meal), would by Job’s friends’ accounting be her own fault. Surely no compassionate person would agree, even if they knew the likelihood that a damaging fall would occur sometime. The voice out of the whirlwind might not sound compassionate, but it did not tolerate the victim blamers either. It just voiced the impossibility of understanding the whole picture of life and death, disease and accident and suffering in this world. We do not know the ‘why’ of damaging events, nor of the diseases that rob a highly intelligent, generous, and faithful person of her mind. We must continue to seek healing solutions.

Forgetfulness is not one of the attributes that most people ascribe to the divine. For good reason we hope that there is a storehouse of the memories that human beings often lose, whether that loss is purposeful or not. How many injustices and innocent people disappear under the rugs of history? At the same time we hope that our own errors and failures do disappear in the mercy of divine forgetfulness. Patience and forgetfulness are qualities that God must possess in infinite amounts, even if they are exercised judiciously. They are qualities that belong to a long-suffering God, who listens to the cries and does not turn away out of exhaustion or intolerance.

We pray to that God, just as Aunt Mary Kleinlein urged us to pray, as she remembered many other times that she and her former sister-in-law Mary Alice have done. Even though she also passed the age of 90, she provided a meal for the fellow-sufferers who had not sat down together for a meal in all of the days since Mother fell, while she and her son sat bedside with Mother.

We pray to that God who could remember the cry of the sufferer and speak those words from the mouth of the suffering Christ. Have you forsaken? Will you? Will you leave? No way. Never.