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John 20:16a – Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned. (NRSV)
The e-mails from my dad in the last few months have been distressing. As he described my mother's physical and mental decline, I was torn between wanting to travel to Chicago to see her and fearing what I would find: an empty shell that might not even recognize me.
At last I had to go to her. "After a lifetime of devotion to the Lord, she is in God's hands," I said to myself, and prayed that His will would be done.
As I entered her room in the convalescent home, she did not say my name, but she brightened. Once a writer, she can find very few words these days. As I talked to her, she seemed to follow what I said, responding with nods, smiles, and an occasional burst of laughter. She remembers the words to many of the old songs. On "Beulah Land", she broke spontaneously into the alto part, just as she had always done. She didn't quite get all the words to "Melancholy Baby", but she tried. Still, she did not say my name.
Over the four days of my visit, I saw her morning and evening of every day. I buttered her bread and encouraged her to eat. I found a book of poems that had been her favourite and read to her. On Sunday, she told me she liked my dress. Asked how she felt, she said, "Wonderful!" The chaplain visited and commented on how cheerful she looked. Surely it was because her only daughter was visiting. But she did not say my name. On my last day, I had to make sure.
"Mom, do you know what my name is?"
"Sylvia," she replied without a second's hesitation. At the sound of my own name, I was reassured. Yes, my mother still knew me.
Mary Magdalene, distraught at the death of her Lord and utterly confused by the absence of His body, wept, hopeless and abandoned. Even when she found Him, she could not understand that He was really present. Then she heard His voice: "Mary." She turned and knew in that moment the reality of His presence. He knew her by name. He had not deserted her. Her hope and joy returned.
John 10:3b – He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (NRSV)
He knows my name. He calls and leads me, and will never leave me desolate, no matter how alone I may feel. Physical infirmity may someday take away my mother's memory of me, but my Saviour will always know my name.
Prayer: Oh, blessed Saviour, how thankful we are that You care enough to call us by name. Remind us, when we face the harsh realities of life, that Your love for us is eternal and will never fade or deteriorate. Lead us out to share this love with the world in hope and joy. In Your holy name. Amen.
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