Oct 30, 2017

2017 SGAF Recipient - Marlene Wiebe

Upon hearing the news that she would be receiving funds from our Spiritual Growth Assistance Fund for a second year, Marlene Wiebe from Gretna, MB wrote:  

"What very good news. I extend my sincere thanks to Canadian Women. I am very gratified and I am looking forward to one more year and then 6 more hours! You are making it easier and giving me encouragement. Thank you so very much."  

We had invited Marlene to come and share with us at our recent executive meeting but she was unable to attend.  Instead she sent the following report.

Meditations for Mennonite Women Canada 
By Marlene Kruger Wiebe 
October 15, 2017

Dear Women,

I am reading a book of my own personal choice called Aging as Spiritual Practice
 by Lewis Richmond. It has inspired the following musings. Also I am reading a fiction book called Flight Patterns by Karen White set in an apiary so I open with a quotation from this book that has to do with issues around aging.
 I wanted to share some stories as I go about my practicum at a Senior citizens’ complex so you can taste a little of my experience -- this amazing experience that you are helping to make possible. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity to me. I recognize that you are working for the growth of God’s community of peace as you support education for ministers. Your dedication is both inspiring and necessary. Thank you for everything that you do.


I dreamt - marvelous error!- 
that I had a beehive

Here inside my heart.

And the golden bees
Were making white combs 
And sweet honey

From my old failures.

Antonio Machado P.174 of Flight Patterns

1. Evanescence (to fade away or disappear)

“Letting go of what is already slipping away is how we actually enjoy our life.” Shunyu Suzuki

The faces in the memory care unit wing change over the years. After summer I returned to the unit to lead a devotional on caring more about others than yourself. Bill and Isaac were two new faces for me so I introduced myself, “I am Marlene.” As I was handing out the hymnals suddenly I heard Bill say from behind me, “Hey, Carol!” I knew he meant me so I turned around and faced him.

“Which hymn is it?” He asked, and then, with a sparkle in his eye, “Oh, and I hope you don’t mind me calling you Carol. I could not remember your name.”
We chuckled. His memory was disappearing yet he rolled with it, accepted it and had found a way to live with it. The moment was lightning quick, enjoyable and poignant. It was much more telling than the little talk I had cooked up.

I will be forever grateful to Bill who offered a light in the gathering darkness of memory loss with such grace and good nature.

2. Cherish

“The prayer is true because you are true.” Lewis Richmond p.123.

Whenever I walk into a person’s apartment, I am always set to be surprised. On one single tree, no two leaves are the same. In the same way, no two people are the same. Everyone is entirely unique. The day I met Ruth, as usual I started by asking about family.
“Oh, my daughter is a nurse and is so very smart at math,” she exclaimed.

From family we moved onto chatting about her plants.
“ I have 6 plants. The trick is to water them while counting 1-2-3-4-5.” She explained.
“ I see where your daughter gets her love of math,” I remarked.
“Oh, I am a dummy. I can’t remember stuff.”
“Forgetting stuff does not mean you are not smart,” I hastened to point out, hurting for her. The moment went by, irretrievable, as we went onto other topics.

Who is there to cherish Ruth? Obviously, God cherishes Ruth. Who is there to tell Ruth that God cherishes her? That would be me. I echo Ruth in my heart, “I am a dummy. Should have told her...” Who cherishes me? Who cherishes us all? God does, of course, through the healing ministry of Jesus who definitely does not look on us as dummies. Jesus heals failures with forgiveness.
Our truth is that we need God’s help. We are dependent on God’s mercy as cherished children who are lived and who love others. That is the truth of who we are, cherished by God, the source of life in all of its goodness.

3. Vertical Time
In horizontal time “everything changes; everything is in motion. In vertical time, however, everything is accessible; every possibility is restful and free.”
Lewis Richmond p.83

One particular visit made an impression on me. When I slowly opened the door because no one was answering my knock, I saw Annie asleep on the couch with the radio was blaring. I woke her up with trepidation, not knowing what else to do....
“Annie, do you need to sleep or would you like to visit?”

“Visit,” came her immediate and very loud reply.
 The visit started out with her not laughing at my humour and my laughing at her description of the “KorbDycks” and the “BorschtDycks.”  “It is not funny,” she cut my laughter short, “It was dumb.”
 To myself I thought that I had better pray and run away. 

The conversation continued to bump along until I drew it it to a close with a prayer.
“Why? Why do you have to go?” She asked. “Stay. I will make coffee.” She was struggling to her feet and positioning her walker. It had already been an hour, the suggested length of the pastoral visit. We were going into overtime.
“OK, I could use some coffee,” I said.

She offered me a tray of candy. Going to the frig she pulled out a huge glass jar of shiny gray fish with dead but beady eyes staring at me.
 “Don’t know how this got here but it’s going to be supper,” She cheerfully announced.
 I gulped.
 We sat and she began to share with me how her husband had struggled with mental illness, and how the church had been judgmental. In spite of her mom’s protests she had married him because she said, “who else would look after him?”

 Time, in its predictable march of past, present and future was becoming something else. It occurred to me that her priorities in life were not to get ahead, or the most, or be the best. Maybe she was an illustrating an experience of vertical time.

Richmond describes vertical time as breathing in and out, resting in place, not going back to the past nor moving forward to the future. “In vertical time, regret and worry do not disappear. But they are no longer the only possibilities...When we include vertical time - the timeless conviction of the present moment- we can find relief from the signposts on horizontal time’s highway” (79).

I think Annie had learned to focus on the present - candy, radio, companionship, longer visit, fish. She was alive in the present having lived through some very trying times. Annie embraced vertical time and found a way to meaning in life. The vast mystery of space, God’s transcendence, and God’s merciful love for each person can be experienced more fully where horizontal and vertical time meet. All around us are the many possibilities that God offers in life.


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