I’m way late posting this here, but for online posterity, here’s the text for the 10 May 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.
My Aunt Marsha, my mom’s sister, is a maverick in our family. She stood up to my domineering grandfather when everyone else chickened out, she moved cities on a whim, she brought the party wherever she went. At family Christmases, after dinner she’d turn up the music and pull my shy mother off the sofa to dance. They’d hold each other, cheek to cheek, like a couple – swirling, crooning, laughing. Eventually, we’d all join in.
Eurovision never crossed-over to the States, but Marsha would’ve loved it. She’d dance to everything – folksongs, hard-rock, even the schmaltzy pop anthems like my favourite Eurovision winner, Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves. I can imagine Marsha swaying a lighter in the air, singing with the crowds – “And we’re all gonna shine a light together!” as the song goes. “In every corner of our heart … light up the magic in every little part.”
Sadly, in her sixties, Marsha was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. First, she forgot her words, then she forgot people, eventually she forgot how to move her body. As the disease progresses, Marsha is withdrawing into a mystery, and we can’t relate in the ways we used to.
This past Christmas, after two pandemic years of not seeing each other, my mom was determined to gather the whole family, including Marsha, who sat quietly on the sofa as we all caught up. When it was time to eat, my mom helped her to her feet, held her cheek to cheek, and they sort of slow-danced to the table. As they moved together, step by beautiful step, I felt such love between them – in the absence of words, there was a softer energy, a different kind of music.
There’s a Bible verse that starts: “Love is patient, love is kind.” You may have heard it at a Christian wedding, but I think it points to something much bigger. The verse goes on: “Your speaking will come to an end. Your imagination will dry up, your knowledge will die, but love never fails. It protects, it perseveres, it endures.” Or, as Katrina and the Waves sing it: the love light carries.
When circumstances change and we can’t relate in the ways we used to, I believe love is the only thing that can carry us through. In life, in death, into the hidden mystery of what’s to come, love is the only thing that will light the way.