This is part one of a series about Rose and Ken. Rose was 67 years old when admitted to hospice with Pick’s Disease, a form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s Disease. Pick’s is a metabolic disorder in which the person lacks an enzyme required to break down fatty substances in the brain and nervous system. Consequently brain cells swell, then shrink and eventually die, resulting in progressively disabling behavioral and personality changes.
Rose now needs 24- hour care and supervision, she restlessly roams, is practically mute, and has very limited affect or emotional expression. But she still responds to the love of her life, her husband Ken. One of our hospice inpatient center nurses told me that when Ken picked Rose up at the end of a recent respite stay that, “As soon as she saw Ken she reached her arms straight out for him.” The nurse added, “You sure can tell she adores him.”
Ken reminisced, “I was raised on a farm and I never wanted to go back to one. But Rose came home one day and told me that she’d put $500 down on a far and so here we are.” Rose and Ken have enjoyed a true partnership. Their relationship reminds me of what God said after creating Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18). According to Ken, Rose has surely been a “helper comparable to him”. They’ve worked side-by-side. Together they’ve roofed barns, loaded, hauled and sold coal, and constructed the house they presently live in. And Ken bragged, “Rose did a lot of the carpentry work her self.”
During one of my visits, as we sat at the kitchen table, Ken reminisced about his upbringing. He shared some of the values he learned from his father: “Dad taught us not to use the word ‘can’t’. He told us to use the word ‘try’. He always expected us to at least try and Dad told us that if you have a bird in your hands don’t grab after the other two in the bush, or you might lose the one you have.” Ken added, “ I don’t like to hear someone talking bad about somebody. I’d rather try to find something good to say about somebody and I believe that if you tell something on somebody that you don’t know for sure is true, to me it’s the same as lying.“
Ken’s comments ushered my thoughts back to a poignant story about Noah and his three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. (Genesis Chapter 9) After the flood waters receded and the ark rested on dry ground, Noah planted a vineyard, made some wine, got drunk and passed out “uncovered” in his tent. The story continues, “Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.” What a display of Godly respect.
Shem and Japheth’s response to their father’s nakedness reminds me of a chorus we used to sing at church back in the seventies: “We will work with each other; we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christian’s by our love, by our love. And they’ll know that we are Christian’s by our love.” I ask you, do people know that we are Christians by our love?
So, the next time we look upon the “nakedness” or the shortcomings of others, let’s decide not to be “such a Ham about it.” Instead, let’s cover their “nakedness” with a garment of respect. For “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Proverbs 11:12-14; ESV)