Early one morning a few days ago, I walked by Emma’s* room on my way to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. I heard Emma talking, so I stepped inside her room to be sure she was okay. Emma is one of our two assisted living residents. She is 91, has dementia, and is quite frail, but she usually has a very cheerful disposition. We have cared for her in our home for more than three years.
Emma was lying in bed. Her eyes were wide open. I asked her if she was feeling okay, or if she needed anything. She looked at me and said, very clearly, “I saw Jesus!”
I thought I had heard her right, but to be sure, I asked her, “Did you say you saw Jesus?”
“Yes,” she responded. “I saw Jesus.”
“Did he know you?” I asked her.
“Yes.” Then the moment of clarity had passed. She continued to say words, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. She looked very happy and was quite excited as she continued to talk.
For the past ten years, my partner, Mim, and I have been providing assisted living services in our home. We usually have two residents living with us. All twenty of the residents who have lived with us thus far have been quite frail, and many of them have had some degree of dementia. Most have come to live with us until they are ready to pass on to their next life. One resident lived with us for only a day before she passed on. Another resident lived with us almost four years. Most live a year or two.
Mim and I have learned that it is quite common for our residents to see visitors from heaven when they get closer to the end of their lives. The visitors may be angels, friends and family members who have preceded them in death, and now Jesus himself. Unfortunately, Mim and I don’t get to see these visitors. Only the resident can see them, and the resident is very comforted by the visit. The visitors seem to be here to alleviate any fears our residents may have about moving on to the other side.
My conversation with Emma last week brought to mind the song, “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” (words by Gloria Gaither, music by William J. Gaither and Danny Daniels). A few of the words are:
I’ve just seen Jesus
And I’ll never be the same again.
That prompted me to think about how music helps us both understand and express what we’ve learned about God’s love through our life experiences. Over the next few weeks I’ll have the perfect opportunity to share these thoughts. Pastor Joan Gunderman and I are working together on creating a Lenten e-retreat entitled “The Scandal of Lent.” Joan’s part is to write reflections based on the key themes of the book, The Scandal of Lent, by Robert Kysar. My part is to write reflections based on Lenten hymns, gospel songs, and spirituals for each week of Lent. Each reflection will include information about the song as well as links to online performances of the song. Our intent is that everyone who participates in this e-retreat will be able to say along with Emma, “I saw Jesus,” or at least be able to say, “I understand more about God’s love now than I did before, and I’ll never be the same again.”
For more information about our Lenten e-retreat, click here.
* To protect the privacy of our resident, I’ve changed her name to Emma in this blog post.