I have been given a gift of meeting three women in my lifetime who glowed with a Godly spirit. I didn’t just know it to be so in my mind, but in my whole spirit as well. I was warm on the inside and bursting at the chest. There was no mixture of admiration and ambition or any other worldliness. It was pure love I felt on approaching so full and enveloping. Time played no role. The overflowing came as we met not because of who we were or how long we knew each other. It was too powerful to touch hands. Sitting in its midst was breathtaking. The memory of each exchange is as clear as if it was happening right now. These are soul memories – spirit memories – that are not dependent on cognitive abilities. For those with dementia, I suggest that worship without memory is therefore not only possible but may be more powerful without the interference of broken hearts or confused minds.
I was about twenty and working on a mayoral campaign for Jimmy Smith in Port Gibson, Mississippi. After the polling was closed, we met in a church where we found out sadly that he had lost after so much dedication and effort. I was feeling very low when an older woman who I had never met came up to console me. It was her town, her postponement of empowerment, but she reached through it all and gave me warm words of encouragement which hardly sounded like they came from her mouth but rather from the air around her. She left me with a soul memory that lasted forty plus years – a lifetime.
I went to Laura Steward’s house, after her family accepted my request to meet with her, to ask whether I could name a new Christian school after her that I was starting up. Neither her nor her family knew me well, if at all. She was sitting on the corner of the couch and I pulled up a chair. We began some small talk as I explained why I was there, but I remember like it was today that my words seemed to be inconsequential – meaningless really. She was looking into my soul. It was not scary, but rather powerful as her essence explored mine. She didn’t make her mind up – she made up her soul. I was fifty and knew it was different than all the school lessons and lawyer closing statements. It was timeless – uncluttered by equivocation just like Mississippi.
When I was sixty-six, I met Bertha Joy at a dining room table in Courtland Nursing Home located in Ellsworth, Maine. She was going on ninety-five and stood six feet 2 inches tall.
I sat down next to her and was surprised when she started a conversation with me. Somehow, we started talking about basketball – which is a sport I love – and she raised up her hands remembering how she used to rebound.
Two years later, I visited Courtland and found her in about the same spot, but she looked very tired – staring blankly into space. I said, “Good morning, Bertha Joy. It is so nice to see you.” Slowly she turned and asked, “How do I know you?” I then said, “I used to call bingo there. You prayed with my daughter for my grandkids to be Godly prayers.” We also spoke of other things, then I got up to leave. With my back to her and at the door, she said “basketball”. I was stunned and said “yes” with a glow in my spirit, as was her memory.