SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

For Better, For Worse

Dear Church,

I saw some of the truest love and faithfulness last week.  I had scheduled a visit to serve communion to Chuck and Janet Detmar. They live just a few houses down from church on South Park Avenue, but they have a cottage in Michigan and spend as much time as they can there in the summer months.  For the last several years, Janet’s mental health has drastically declined.  What started out as “senior moments” turned to more obvious memory lapses.  There was even a very scary incident a few years ago when she was in the car and got lost and ended up hundreds of miles away from home. Chuck has had to lock the doors for fear of her wandering away.  From what Chuck told me, she has good days and she has bad days.  On her good days she recognizes her daughter and allows her to give her a bath.  On her bad days, Janet doesn’t know who Chuck is and is fearful that a “stranger” is in her home.

Still, Chuck remains unbreakably loyal and faithful to his bride.  When I walked over last week, he greeted me at the door.  We exchanged pleasantries.  As we walked into the living room, I heard Janet speaking to someone. Chuck said she just has conversations either with herself or with people who aren’t there.  When Chuck ushered her into the living room, I greeted her and invited her to sit down next to me so that we could have communion together. She resisted at first, but Chuck assured her everything was okay.  I’ve put together this helpful travel communion liturgy along with a travel communion kit. I opened with prayer.  We said the Apostle’s Creed.  I prayed through the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving.  Everything seemed to be going well.  Janet even recited a few lines from the Creed.  When I said the words of institution and handed her a piece of bread she refused.  Again, Chuck assured her it was okay, and that this was the body of Christ. I could tell she was very agitated. She finally took the piece of bread and upon me saying, “This is the body of Christ given for you,” she participated in communion.

Before I could transition to the cup, Janet stood up and said, “Okay, that’s enough” and began to walk out of the room.  Chuck tried to talk her into staying by reminding her that everything was okay.  She wanted nothing to do with whatever we were doing.  She got up and left.  I extended Chuck the cup and we finished our communion service.

We sat in their living room in silence.  Finally, Chuck leaned in and said to me, “You only get one shot at this life, and I’ve had the best spouse anyone could ever ask for.” I didn’t know what to say.  I was amazed by this man’s undying devotion to his wife.  When the topic of “nursing homes” was brought up, he shook his head and said he could never do that, or at least things would have to get a lot worse before he would consider that.  I thought to myself, get worse…than this?  Just the night before Chuck had woken up at 3:00am to find Janet in the kitchen getting all her cups out of the cupboard and filling them with water. When Chuck asked her what she was doing, she said she was getting food ready for the kids.

I saw a steadfast love and faithfulness from this good man that I will never forget.  It made me think about my marriage and how I would be if I was in Chuck’s shoes.  And when I thanked him for giving me an example of such devotion, he shrugged it off, not really wanting to acknowledge his actions.  For Chuck, this was just the way marriage is.  This is “for better and for worse.”  Marriage isn’t easy.  Not when you’re newlyweds.  Not when you’re a young family with little kids.  Not when you are empty nesters trying to figure out a new rhythm.  And certainly not when you’re a primary caregiver.  I’d ask that you pray for Chuck, Janet and all those who, by the help of the Holy Spirit are doing their best to “I do” and “I will.”

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt