I got home after my third day in aged care and took the most surreal shower of my life. After an arduous morning of showering other people so slowly and with such difficulty, it felt so strange that I could step into my own shower, stand up straight, turn on taps for myself and wash the day off of me.
There was a film of fear and anxiety that needed washing off. There were also, quite possibly, other things that needed to be washed off, like, say, vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and other people’s saliva, but these were less important to eradicate.
It was as though I was suddenly awake, and every other young, mobile, fertile, and flexible person around was still asleep, unaware that they were going to be old some day. Not just
old, but possibly unstable and stiff and in pain and incontinent and disoriented and dependent. And how was it possible for me to be so young and alive now, in the face of this reality, because I knew it was going to happen, even if everyone else didn’t.
I could become the woman who wondered around with no shoes. I could become the woman insistent that I and the other carers were, “thieves, thieves!” and had stolen her purse in the night. I could be the woman with her mouth continually open, limbs written off, and eyes cloudy and blank.
So it was a bleak shower.
Facing ugliness can be disorientating. I walked around the nursing home wondering how my life could be valuable if it ends in such a harsh and brutal way, which is definitely not what I walk around thinking when I am traipsing fromMaylands to Mount Lawley, drinking four dollar cups of coffee and regretting croissants. For people without the Lord that disorientation can be overwhelming and unshakable, because without him I don’t think there is a way to face death and ugliness and carry on unafraid.
But for Christians, our disorientation need not last. As I folded crocheted blankets and placed them over skinny knees I remembered. I remembered the Lord, and his care of me. I remembered that he would not cast me away when I am old or forsake me when my strength is gone. I remembered that though the Lord may make me see troubles, many and bitter, he will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth he will again bring me up. He will increase my honour and comfort me once more.
Knowing that our God sees our lives and that our lives count, means that any ugliness can be faced and walked through, towards the hope we have in Christ and the resurrection. I don’t need to despair over bibs and pressure sores. As for me, I always have hope; I will praise him more and more.