As long as I live, Jesus, make me your
To carry your cross and to share all your burdens and tears;
My God, my God, why hast
Thou forsaken me?
I can hardly
imagine the anguish of homesickness. A sense of abandonment can
overwhelm even the most independent of us. The feeling goes
beyond loneliness and stirs deep within. Anxiety wells up both
to our own surprise as well as the surprise of others.
all his resolve to turn his face towards Jerusalem found himself
in this world of uncertainty. “Why have you forsaken me?” he
asks to the air around him. He was not alone on this hill top.
Others shared his fate. It was the feeling of abandonment that
covered him in waves.
that he was about his Father’s business, there was no hint of
Jesus feeling abandoned when Mary and Joseph left him behind in
Jerusalem as a youth. That confidence continued in life and
even when he was in the wilderness – and all alone – following
his baptism. He never felt abandoned. The Gospel accounts give
ample evidence of Jesus’ sense of well-being and he speaks
confidently of his public ministry that made up so much of his
In moments of
lucidity he cast his face toward the darkened, oppressive sky.
His gaze tried to penetrate the terror and confusion that filled
the air. His fears found prayerful expression the night before
in the Garden. His fear returned in his sense of abandonment.
Fear built on fear and in desperation those nearby caught a
sound… perhaps his voice, shallow and thin… perhaps the wind.
“Why have you forsaken me…?”
heard it, shook it off. It was the wind, some thought.
decades have passed since I visited Jack. Stricken with
Alzheimer’s disease, this Christian gentleman was committed to
the Provincial Hospital in Saint John. No longer able to live
with his wife of over forty years, Jack required the sort of
attention that was only to be found in a locked ward.
days Jack had been an astute professional with a wonderful wit
and disarming charm. As his dementia progressed he began to
lose his faculties, in small ways in the beginning, but in more
serious ways as the disease advanced. He got so that his wife
could no longer care for him and she became a stranger to him.
week I arranged to pick up his wife so that I might give them
both Communion, as I regularly did on Sundays before his
committal. Led to the locked ward, the grey painted brick
hallway echoed as the attendant knocked on the metal door of the
ward. Unlocked from inside by another attendant, the door was
opened to allow our entry. We were in a desolate place.
Patients scuffed across the floor in aimless directions, never
alighting on a chair, never stopping to look out a window.
Standing in their midst was Jack.
We were taken
to Jack and while introductions were made, as they had been in
the past, no sense of recognition passed across Jack’s face.
His affect did not hint at even the slightest recollection of a
memory of his wife – or me. As always, he was amiable and
accompanied us to a side room where the attendant had arranged
chairs and a small table.
As I busied
myself setting up the Communion vessels, Jack’s wife tried to
make conversation with her husband, admiring his hair,
commenting on how good he looked that day, observing how spring
had finally begun, and almost in desperation, how the weather
was that afternoon.
Communion Service began and I was surprised how lucid Jack
became, at least for the moment. He followed the prayers and
knew when to make the appropriate responses. He joined us in
the General Confession as well as the Prayer of Humble Access –
prayers he would have known from his youth. He received the
Sacrament reverently and as he did, his wife looked on him with
pride and admiration.
pronounced the Benediction, Jack clasped his hands by his knees
as he sat in his chair and said, “Amen!” And as he did, he
lapsed into the inner terrors of his abandonment and we beheld
Jack as we had met him a half hour earlier.
door clanked shut behind us as we left the Ward and I took a
moment to look back – through the small glass window in the
door, reinforced with wire mesh. I saw Jack standing in the
midst of a sea of agony and confusion. He looked at me. And I
am sure I heard Jesus’ words – if not uttered on the heights of
Golgotha then in the locked Ward I had just visited: “Why have
you forsaken me?”
As long as I
live, Jesus, make me your servant,
To carry your
cross and to share all your burdens and tears…
I am thirsty.