Clare sits in her rocking chair, strategically placed in the open living/dining area so that she can see everything but not be in the middle of everything. She dislikes participating unless it is on her terms. Ten out of ten people who visit our home will miss seeing her. Though she is in plain view, I have come to believe that, to others, she is invisible.
She came to live with us twenty-two years ago—she was one of the last four people to leave the last standing institution in the state. Non-verbal, frightened, traumatized, violent, aggressive, and angry, she was, nonetheless, a beautiful, kindhearted, often gentle, joyful, engaging woman. As the years went by, we experienced her more and more this way. Still, the world, when they see her, treats her as a modern-day version of a leper—intellectually delayed with serious mental illness—they are afraid of her; could she not please go away?
One day we had a priest friend visit our church. Clare had the opportunity to make her first confession. He offered to hear hers in the first pew of the church as she was too frightened to go into the confessional. As she sat close to him in the pew, and they put their heads together, several of my kids expressed their concern. For one thing, we were in the back of the church and would have been unable to reach them in the case of an “emergency.” The concern was that she was going to become angry and hit the priest, or put him in a headlock, or bite him. Clare had a clear idea of right and wrong. I was not worried—the priest was very gentle and loving. He talked with her and she nodded her head, and after a bit, she started saying, “Juujee, juujee”—(her word for “sorry”). And then she embraced him—it was a headlock of sorts, but very tender and affectionate. He let her hold him, and then she was done.
A leper came to Jesus, and kneeling down begged him, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’
Am I not also a leper? Surely, if my insides were exposed to the outside it would not be very lovely. I can harbor such awful thoughts, I can be hurtfully angry, and I can hide my love from those who seek it. I can withhold affection as easily as I can withhold forgiveness.
I kneel by my bed, and I beg the Lord, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”
I listen for him.
I pray, “Juujee, juujee.”
He answers, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Again, I am made clean by the presence of Love, who loves me.