This week, in the Boston Globe, I read the story of an elderly couple named Sol and Rita Rogers. They’ve been married 61 years. They’ve raised a family and lived a long and happy life together. A few years ago, that began to change. Rita developed Alzheimer’s. And she is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia.
Several weeks ago, she was taken to a health care center, where she now has to live. The first few days, she screamed and talked incoherently. She could barely form words with her mouth. Most tragically, she could no longer recognize her husband. She had no idea who he was. This was agony for him. He would go home from visiting her, trembling with grief, overwhelmed by sadness.
One morning, he went into her room, and saw her lying there and had an idea – an idea, he said, that could only have come from God. Sol climbed into his wife’s tiny twin bed, and put his arms around her. And he just held her. He hugged her. He whispered to her. That’s all. But something happened. As he put it, “I got into bed with her and loved her and it lifted my depression.” And Rita was transformed, too. She responded to his touch. And she began to talk.
He now does it every day. Rita’s doctor says that her “old memory” recalls being in his arms, remembers how he used to hold her, and part of her is able to come back.
Now Sol spends a couple of hours of every day, just holding Rita, telling her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him. Just as they have for 61 years.
I can’t think of a more beautiful example of what married love is all about – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. The venerable Matt Talbot said that it is constancy that God wants.
Persistence. Perseverance. Sol Rogers had that – and more.
And so did the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel.
It comes down to never giving up for someone you love.
Never losing faith.
The Canaanite woman was the mother of a very sick girl, a child tormented by a demon. The girl may have suffered from epilepsy, or schizophrenia. Terrors in the night. Paranoia. Inconsolable fear. We can only imagine what the mother was going through. The helplessness, and the worry.
But this mother had something more powerful. She had faith – faith in someone who was not even a part of her race or religion. Jesus became her last, best hope.
And so the mother went to Jesus and implored his help. Not once. Not twice. But three times. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally, Jesus was so moved by her faith that he couldn’t refuse her. And her daughter was healed.
The photo above is credited to Pat Greenhouse of the Boston Globe. Caption: Sol Rogers cuddled up with his wife, Rita, during a recent afternoon at Briarwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Needham.