Matthew 7:13 – 14 – PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE
Prose, Poetry and Photos © By Ross Cochrane
Cross = Love
In the Aged Facility where I am a Chaplain, I meet many people who, when finding themselves in high care, move through a process of grief over the losses that come with age. Life changes dramatically after a stroke or a fall or when dementia makes it impossible for people to live at home. All of a sudden they are living in a building with locked doors with keypads and nurses writing care plans, careworkers showering, lifting, and doing everything for them. It’s all a little confusing, confronting and unfamiliar. It can feel as if they are trapped.
It is often the inward prison of negativity that traps people more than their outward circumstances. This is true through life but can come to the forefront when someone comes into high care.
I have also noticed what happens when someone finds Christ. All of a sudden the prison on the inside is opened and they are free. Free to live as God intended. This prose and poem talks graphically about that journey. I have not tried to water down the grief. Isaiah 53:4 speaks of Jesus. It says “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”
PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE
DAY 1 – LOSS OF YOUTH
Journey to Life
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. Inside I find this verse from the Bible – John 21:18 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”
Lifted like a mist on mountain slopes
The haze clears enough for me to see. I am old,
And wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall.
I cannot fathom how distant hopes
Ended, broken and bruised, torn, homeless and cold
These words I leave to journal such a fall.
A care worker and a walker, seem strange,
Whoever is crippled, cranky, unconvinced,
With soft, sweet, sure, safe, assuring words,
Is greeted, treated kindly in exchange.
DAY 2 – LOSS OF FREEDOM
Key to Life
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.” Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! Files and Records. No privacy. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.
On the next page of my diary I read Psalms 118:5 (NLT) “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.” If only.
I know I am meant for other things,
Not lies and patronising tones, and these locked doors.
My ears, dulled to all the other sounds around me
Hear freedom’s constant calls. Flightless wings
Refuse passage from this sad prison. It causes
Hope to fade, and fear fails to set me free.
Their care invades, interrogates, ensnares,
While ever I remain, constrained to live now,
What life is left, in this single room.
My private things in folders are shared, theirs
DAY 3 – LOSS OF HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS AND THE FAMILIAR
Key to life
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.
Sentenced, I seek for my release, reach
For keys to other kingdoms with a future sure
Where heartfelt cries are answered and I once more walk
Free, unfaltering, fearless. Each
Footstep closer to friends, fam’ly, and cure,
Where old mates, tried and true, gather to talk.
I have exchanged familiar with strange;
Whatever is diff’rent delights to devour
The sure, safe, secure and stable things,
And whispers words of warning of the change
DAY 4 – LOSS OF HOME AND HOPE
My family avails themselves of 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 40 years, is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a big back yard for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting. Inheritance draining. A burden to my family. Set aside. Abandoned.
The Bible verse for today is Psalms 71:9 (NLT) “And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.” Don’t abandon me.
Today, I have cried for life bereft,
For loved ones advocating not for my release.
For homes sold, taken, traded, forty years of waste,
Tears tasted forfeit fall, failed, unblessed.
Escape plotted and plans, so hollow, they cease
To make sense. My dreams in shackles, erased.
DAY 5 – LOSS OF MONEY, WORK, RESPECT, MEANING
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!”
Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”” It seems even God wants Power of Attorney!
Power taken from me, enforced lack,
Where is my million dollar wealth? Has it dwindled now?
It evades, is inaccessible evermore,
A prisoner of time. Send me back!
Respect, honour are scorned, sold, shallow, but how?
And my trade, my craft, sawdust on the floor.
Sand sifts, hourglass-like, survival slips, slides,
Sedation is stable, settled, soothes for now.
Closed door, house of straw, coffee cups.
An imposed life where meaning from me hides
DAY 6 – LOSS OF CHALLENGE
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!
Tablets 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. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. 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.
Joshua 1:9 (NLT) “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“Please, can you take me home!” Insane hopes,
But I am trundled, bundled to a prison cell,
Where assessed risks are guarded and no dangers lurk
Sentries pencil their paperwork, ropes
To choke challenge are wound, and sound the death knell
On all threats, and on adventure. Their work
Is to protect, to reduce all life’s dare.
Whoever has fallen, is plucked safe and well,
With swift, safe, sure, artificial arms.
No hazards here, but superficial care
DAY 7 – FAITH FOUND
Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
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.
Today I read about Abraham. Romans 4:19-22 (NLT) says “Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.”
Jesus loves me this I think I know. I better take it to the Lord in prayer. I’ve been invited to devotions by the Chaplain tomorrow. Pierced hearts cannot somehow with band-aids and pills and magic potions be healed.
DAY 8 – FREEDOM WITHIN
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. Hopefully it has wheelchair access. 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.
I read from Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) and it spoke to me. God says “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
John 8:36 (NLT) says “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
DAY 9 – NEW REFLECTION
So I 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.
I look in the mirror. The old man who stares back at me is the real diary. My faith, written on my life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
DAY 10 – THE TRUE DIARY
Journey to Life
Ascending like mist on mountain slopes
The haze has lifted. I still see that I am old,
My wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall,
But now I fathom who I am. Hopes
Fulfilled I see, reflected in that form so bold,
A shining light to journal such a call.
Fresh life written in that face revealed. True
Diary of faith, forgiveness I behold,
God’s grace for grief’s wounds, freely poured.
His faithful touch heals, redeems, makes me new,
I am restored.