Matthew 7:13 – 14 – PRISON DIARY – A Parable
My dementia lifted today like mist from a mountain. The haze that has been my life has cleared enough for me to look in the mirror and see that I have grown old. Very old. As to where I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. But the diary I hold in my hands claims my name on the cover.
DIARY ENTRY – DAY 1- I am able to walk with the help of a walking device. A Care Worker attended to me today, and when I asked her where I was, she said “You are in a safe place. Don’t worry about anything. You can eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity without having to think about tomorrow.”
When I began to object another attendant took me aside and assured me that she knows what is best for me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Please don’t complain. You have a beautiful place to live and everything is done for you!”
DAY 2 - Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! The guards interrogate my family and me for information constantly, keeping records everyday. It is not for my eyes, but it must be a fascinating file, because so much time is spent writing in it. I can’t go to the toilet without it being noted. This seems like an extraordinary invasion of privacy.
What crime have I committed? I asked a guard if he could check my records and see the length of my sentence and my release date, but he sat me down to watch television. Perhaps, like many around here, he is hard of hearing. What bothers me is that it will take several tries for me to get out of this chair again.
DAY 3 – I have exchanged my friends and family with inmates and guards. The inmates are all very old. The guards all very young. Different generation, different cultures, paid to be friendly. I still shudder to think that young women take me to the toilet and shower and dress me in the morning. My son says I have no choice.
Day 4 - My family has visiting rights occasionally, but it seems they think I deserve a life sentence and have abandoned trying to advocate for my release. Today I cried when they left. I learned that my beautiful four bedroom home where I have lived for the last 30 years is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a tennis court for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting.
I hear the family say “Is he asleep? He might as well be dead.” I still have my hearing. I am a burden to my family. Inheritance draining. Thoughts of suicide today. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.
DAY 5 – Discovered today that I have no money to spend. A successful business, millions earned over a lifetime, money to burn in the bank but I am broke. My son told me that he is now my power of attorney and he will pay for everything. Enforced poverty.
I said somewhat foolishly “Have more respect! Don’t you realise who I am?” Has he forgotten? Have I forgotten who I am? A doctor, an army officer, Prisoner of war, a Businessman, a Mayor! Was I the Mayor? Who am I? No-one seems to care who I am anymore. I am just a grain of sand on the beach, a tiny ripple in an ocean. “Don’t laugh at me!”
DAY 6 – Drugged everyday. Surviving but not living. I have been issued a walker to get around, but there is nowhere to go, no challenges to face, no future to plan, no contribution to make, nothing truly meaningful that I can do in terms of work. Closed doors. Imposed routines. I have come to consider a cup of coffee as one of the most important events in life.
DAY 7 – I was so pleased when one guard said she would take me home today, but she simply proceeded to take me back to my one room prison cell. Is she mad! Am I mad!
DAY 8 - Insecure. Guards are there to serve and protect me, men and women armed with their paperwork who are always planning strategies to keep me from experiencing any real challenges in life. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. Biggest challenge today – going to breakfast! I have to look both ways just to walk down the hallway. If I fall, a monstrous piece of machinery turns up to pluck me from the floor and place me on the bed. It seems the worst enemy around here is gravity.
DAY 9 – Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Jesus loves me. This I know. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
DAY 10 - Chaplain says God doesn’t have a band-aid for the wounds I have on the inside, or a drawer full of pills to help me cope, but God does offer His total healing, forgiveness, friendship and direction in life and in eternity. He can be trusted to keep His promises. He will never leave me or forsake me. He can set me free on the inside.
The Chaplain read from Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” That’d be right. Even the road to heaven is too narrow for wheelchair access and dangerous. Better take my walker and hope for the best.
Seriously though, perhaps it’s not that I am in a prison. It is that the prison is in me. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” His death on the Cross for my sins has set me free. Thought about this all day.
DAY 11 - So I have swapped the wide road with it’s wheelchair access, lack of obstacles and easy smooth path and chose to embark on the adventure of faith, with it’s challenges and potholes and narrow roads. My faith is still a bit bumpy and it is a challenge everyday. But today I choose life.
DAY 12 - My dementia descends today like mist on a mountain. The haze that has been my life has cleared enough for me to look in the mirror but not to recognise the old man who stares back at me. As to who I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. All I have is this diary and my faith. O God, You who promised never to leave me or forsake me, …help me today….
Chaplain of Shalom