The Burning Bush and Alzheimer’s

Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH

Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH

It had been three years since I’d seen Polly.

“Mom’s had a heart attack,” said Polly’s daughter. “She’s at Christ Hospital. There’s really no reason to visit. Most days she doesn’t even know me anymore.”

For eleven years we had shared the same church in Cincinnati. Polly had been chair of the Pastor Search Committee that invited me to candidate for the position of Pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church, and over the years the times together over cocktails and dinner had been frequent before we moved to Minneapolis.

I walk into her room in the cardiac care center expecting nothing.

I say her name. She opens her eyes and stares. “Well, Gordon Campbell Stewart, what are you doing here?”

“Well, that’s not the question. The question is what are you doing in a place like this?” We both chuckle, as we so often had done over something that had struck our shared funny bone.

She asks about the boys and how things are in Minneapolis. She’s clear as a bell for a good three minutes until she goes away to wherever people with Alzheimer’s go when they’ve had enough of consciousness.

Buried somewhere deep in the depths of Alzheimer’s are sacred memories that bubble up for a just a moment before they slip back down into the reservoir from which they’ve been drawn. When they bubble up, we know we are standing on holy ground. The bush is burning but it is not consumed.