After our glorious Easter worship service this past Sunday, my son Jackson and I traveled down to see my father in his dementia care facility in Atlanta. We found him asleep sitting upright surrounded by ten elderly women in the common room. All seemed to be resting content in silence.
Walking in, we stirred everyone with a rather boisterous Easter greeting. Dad woke up and said, "Hello, hello, hello," and pretended in his advanced stage of Alzheimer's to know who we were. Though oblivious to so much around him, Dad was still his usual jovial self, I was grateful to see.
Jackson and I engaged the group in some small talk about the day. I then asked, "How's everybody's Easter?"
Immediately one of the ladies from the back shouted out, "What's Easter?"
It seemed like an odd comment, especially with all the Easter decorations on every wall in the room. But looking around, it was evident that virtually no one there had any comprehension of the day's importance.
"You know, it's the day that Jesus came back to life," I exclaimed. "It's a big celebration."
"Who's Jesus?" one lady shouted.
"When is Easter? my dad chimed in.
For the next 10 minutes, I found myself sharing the Easter story. It was as if these elderly people were hearing the story for the first time as they were holding on to every word. I talked about Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then moved to his betrayal, his arrest, his trial, and his crucifixion. And then I brought the story to resolution with that fabulous ending with the stone being removed and Jesus being raised from the dead. I spoke of the angel at the tomb sharing the good news with the women that Jesus was alive and had gone to Galilee where the disciples were to go meet him. It was good news that would change the world!
After hearing the story's finale, Dad looked me in the eye and said in all seriousness, "Do you suppose I could send him a THANK YOU note?"
"Yes, Dad," I responded, "You can send him a THANK YOU note." What a great idea!"
It was about the most charming conversation I had had in a long time, as if I were sharing a children's sermon with 90 year olds hearing the gospel message for the first time.
Dad's suggestion is a good one-not just for elderly Alzheimer's patients, but for all of us who call ourselves Christian. May each of our lives be a big THANK YOU to God for the gift of the risen Jesus, who makes all things new.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, See, I am making all things new...Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.
Prayer for Today
O God, may we hear the good news of the risen Christ this season as if hearing it for the first time. May we get beyond ho-hum routines of the season to truly be passionate and joyful that you are alive in the world and in our lives. Amen.