I have never forgotten the day when I began singing the “Forever Song” promised on the Kearny, New Jersey Corps bulletin board:
“GOD HAS A SONG TO TEACH US,
AND WHEN WE HAVE LEARNED TO SING IT IN
THE DARKNESS OF ADVERSITY,
WE CAN SING IT FOREVER.”
However, the intensity with which I have sung it over the past 35 years has hit some “highs” and “lows.”
As that intensity began to flatten during VaLeta’s 11-year bout with Alzheimer’s that ended on February 12 of this year, I discovered that the song God promised I could sing forever has more than one “stanza”! So as VaLeta’s condition slowly, but noticeably changed, after five years, I found myself singing the “second stanza” — reluctantly. Two examples: I would correct her errors in relating past experiences and would show her my driver’s license, with my photo and our address, when she did not think I was her husband. But I finally discovered that, actually, I was trying to bring her back from the far country of Alzheimer’s or to delay her proceeding into it out my reach. I at last realized I could not bring her back, but that I could walk with her into her new and uncertain world. And when I could go no further, because I didn’t even know where the path was, God would have to take her the rest of the way. And that He did, praise His name!
Then about two years ago, I read in 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NRSV) that we need not “lose heart [because] even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” I suddenly realized that this includes people with Alzheimer’s! So even though her outward person was deteriorating, VaLeta — in the subterranean depths of her being, possibly sometimes hidden to her and increasingly hidden from us — still was “being renewed day by day.” I started singing the “second stanza” with increased gusto!
Yet there were times after that when I would ask the Lord to take her. On each occasion He would “shush” me and say, “I am not through with the renewing.” Then around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 12, God tapped VaLeta on the shoulder while she was sleeping and whispered in her ear: “The renewal is complete. It is time to greet the Day that will never end.” And she opened her eyes in the Father’s presence, not just cured, but healed. (I think, biblically and theologically, there is a wonderful distinction!) And when, shortly thereafter, I slowly stepped into her room at Huntcliff Sunrise Memory Care in Atlanta, and looked upon the one who had been the love of my life for more than 47 years, I immediately thought of Charles Wesley’s hymn to perfect love: “Finish then Thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be.”
In the days following VaLeta’s promotion to Glory, two of General Albert Orsborn’s songs took on special significance for me. The first was “When Shall I Come Unto the Healing Waters” (Number 647). The General’s discerning line, “Cleanse Thou the wounds from all but Thee far hidden” brought discernment to me that have become a means of grace. The emotional disruption brought on by VaLeta’s promotion to Glory caused an upheaval that also revealed wounds left by times when I could have been more Christ-like in our 47-plus years together. The morning I experienced healing from this was enhanced by the knowledge that with VaLeta’s first sight of Jesus the wounds that I had caused were instantly healed. Healing of these wounds had come “full circle.” I must have sobbed and praised God through my tears for at least a quarter hour.
But awareness of dimensions of other, apparently unrelated wounds that needed healing have also surfaced — wounds from childhood and other stages of life. Although I was only dimly aware of them — if at all — they have been known all along to my Heavenly Father. In long-suffering, He had been waiting for such a time as this to begin releasing the desperately needed healing stream that, in General Orsborn’s refrain, has been flowing over me for the past several months:
From a hill I know,
Healing waters flow;
O rise, Immanuel’s tide,
And my soul overflow!