For the past few days I have been noticing how much more often my husband has been sitting with his favorite Bible in his lap, moving his index finger slowly along the lines of text, an expression of deep study etched in his face. I know that he is not truly able to read the words or comprehend the meaning. Occasionally I will ask him to read aloud to me and he speaks about every third or fourth word. "Did you get what that means, John?" I inquire. "No. Not really," comes the hesitant answer.
So I have been wondering what he does get out of these hours spent in this precious book, and then today I recalled something he has shared with me several times over the past few years. He has told me about his days on the job at the power plant in Farmington, New Mexico, where he was an industrial mechanic. He would tell me about his coffee breaks and his lunch time. "Every day I would pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down with my Bible to read. I didn't care to hear the rough language all around me so I would shut myself in, so to speak, with the Word of God. And sometimes one of these fellows would get curious about what I was reading and then I could share the Word with them. That would be a really good day!"
As the Lord brought this back to my memory, I realized that John must be drawing great comfort just from having that familiar old Bible in his lap, touching its pages, feeling the onionskin with his fingers, perhaps picking up a word here and there that sparks a memory of a Scripture. I must have been right about this because one afternoon after he had been sitting with his open Bible for about two hours I asked him, "How are you doing?" He answered me with one word: "Comfort."
Tonight after I cleared away the dinner dishes and found him again in his chair with the open Bible on his lap, I offered to read to him. He eagerly handed me the Bible. It was open to the book of Isaiah so I began reading right where he was pointing. He hung on every word. He kept asking me to show him where I was in the paragraph, so I started moving my finger along the lines, just as he does. I could see his heart getting so FULL and he would ravenously ask me, "read another chapter please!" It made me think of the passage in Amos 8:11:, "Behold the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD," when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD."
Finally we both got tired and I got him into bed. Then I remembered that I needed to watch an old homemade video of our Betrothal ceremony from October 30, 2010. A dear friend of mine has asked me to sing a song at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration this summer. I offered to sing for them the song I sang to John at our Betrothal. So I found the video on my laptop and began to watch. The pastor recited vows that we then repeated to each other. After this, John reached into his pocket, put on his reading glasses, and began to read aloud to me a long and very meaningful passage of Scripture, and some of his own promises, pledging his love to me. He was so animated, delivering his speech with great expression in his voice and he pronounced every word perfectly! I just sat here, stunned. I honestly didn't remember that he once was so eloquent. I knew from the beginning that he was an extremely avid reader as he had literally hundreds and hundreds of books in his home in Farmington and probably one of almost every translation of the Bible!
Dementia has stolen so much from him. It is such a cruel disease. And yet, it is The Word of God that still sustains him, still comforts him, still gives him peace. When his failed vision betrays him and his brain can no longer process the words, they are still so alive in his heart and his spirit! And as I ponder this I think to myself, "We all need to be like this. We who can still see, still read and comprehend, should ask God to give us this hunger, this fire for His Word. Deuteronomy 30:14: The Word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
I pray for you all a holy and peaceful celebration of the Passover. I pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and God's protection over His people.
Kelly Ferrari Mills