Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Body Fails But Truth Remains

She sat slouched against the chair, white hair resting on the wall and eyes gazing on nothingness.  Her nightgown hung loosely from her body and her cane sat resting against her wrinkled legs.

Without any apparent prompting, she sat up straight and looked me in the eyes.

What day is it?  She asked.

It's Wednesday, Grandma.  

Wednesday, she repeated back to me.  But what month?  She persisted.  

December -- nearly Christmas time, I continued.  She looked at me -- satisfied with my answer -- then settled her head back down again and closed her eyes. 

Christmas music played softly in the background --

O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels

Four times it happened -- four times asked, only minutes apart:  What day is it?

Each subsequent answer from my lips was less enthusiastic and more pained, as I witnessed firsthand the reality of an aging body and mind.

We had arrived only a few days earlier.  It had been nearly a year since we last saw her face, but she had forgotten.  She asked for our names again, the children's names.  Her language often consisted of unintelligible shouts mixed with incoherent mumblings.

The body fails.  Discretion fades.  Memories slip.  Things once familiar become foreign and unrecognizable -- names, dates, places, memories.  There is a sadness and a sobriety in aging.

A sound roused me from my reflection -- the same voice, but this time, not asking for the day or month.

This time, she sang.

Not with incoherent ramblings, but with clarity.  Not with perfect pitch, but with perfect lyrical memory.

Loudly and clearly, she sang every word:

O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing came on after a few seconds pause, and her voice joined in with the recorded choir -- each word with lyrical precision until the song played its final notes.

And only then -- after four verses of perfect accuracy -- did it occur to me.  Long after our bodies fade and our memories fail, our lips will pour forth words that we've treasured up into our hearts.

For this fragile and aging woman, the familiar words of Christmas carols poured out -- hymns she had likely sung each year for nearly a century.

The treasure of the newborn Babe, the angelic melodies of Advent, the lyrics recounting that star-filled night -- a cemented foundation deep within her soul.

The words that we treasure now will certainly pay dividends later.

What you say matters.
How you worship matters.
What you teach to others matters.

Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your ordinances.  
Psalm 119:43

Scriptures, hymns, timeless truths of God -- these are more than just words.  These are the concrete for the soul.  Long after your memory fades and your eyes fail and your body slows, your heart will pulse with words of truth.


  1. What a beautiful moment with your grandmother - thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. Beautiful truth, beautiful memory

  3. Beautiful truth, beautiful memory