Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
Too Wonderfully Strange
By Judith Krum
And for this aged priest to be asked to help. That was just extraordinary. He thought of the Christmas Child, vulnerable and tiny, dependent, trusting. And trust was what it was all about. Trust in his own ability to give care, to maintain a calm exterior, to not weep. Trust in his willingness to be vulnerable himself. He wasn't wearing his clericals - no collar or stole or chasuble to mask his fear. Just his skin and his casual jeans.
And Ella. He had known her for more than 50 years past, a trusted assistant in the church office. She had been a striking woman, tall and always meticulously dressed, her hair coiffed in the latest style. But the years had taken their toll, and, now at a mere 80 pounds, she could no longer hold a book, barely a pamphlet or even a letter. Ella, who used to read a book the size of War and Peace in a week. Ella, who had known the good life, trips to Barcelona and summers on the Cape. Ella, who kept the confidences of the clergy, who never married, who adored the music of the church. Ella, who had dined with Bishops and governors. Ella, who now could not get into the bathtub by herself.
This year, while her family was busy with their own extended families, Ella was making a holiday visit by herself. She was alone. And so, on this visit to the old parsonage, Ella confided that if she were to take a bath, she would need help getting into and out of the bathtub. And so, with the bath drawn, he went into the bathroom to help her. She let her robe fall on to the bench as he took her hand and steadied her balance as she sat on the side of the tub and lifted a foot into the water. He then took her other hand, and she put her other foot into the water. Then gently he helped her lower her body into the waiting warmth. Nothing was said; nothing needed to be said. Leaving her to wash, he left the room and sat in silence outside the door.
"How vulnerable we become when we need care. How vulnerable we become when we give care," he thought.
This kindly, elderly cleric sat, silently considering what had just happened. A lovely, holy soul had placed her frail, arthritic hands in his hand as she entrusted herself into his care. Stripped down, naked, vulnerable, she had asked for help. He considered his background and the Christmas Child who became humanly vulnerable, fragile, dependent. If God could be thus vulnerable, how could humanity refuse to care for one another, to be as dependent as the Christmas child, to be vulnerable in body and emotion. It all seemed far too wonderfully strange.
"To love at all is to be vulnerable"
A recent transplant to Florida from Bennington, Vermont, Judith Krum is a wheelchair user who has MS. An English teacher and counselor, Krum has been writing throughout her life. Her work has been published in the Berkshire Review, Lifting Women's Voices: Prayers to Change the World (Morehouse), on-line in Breath and Shadow and Wordgathering, as well as in chapbooks from the Inglis House Poetry Workshops. Krum’s first book Gossamer Threads to Catch the Soul is available on Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle).