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April 5, 2007
On this night of Jesus' last supper with his friends, he instituted what we would come to call the Holy Eucharist and also washed the disciples' feet, as if he were not their master, but their servant. These things, he said, were dramatic examples of a new commandment, that we should love one another as he has loved us. Unstinting. Self-giving.

But isn't that an old commandment? Don't we already know something about it? You are up in the night again with a sick child -- not the sick child you were up with last night, but her sister. The family is passing the same germ from person to person, and you yourself feel heachache-y and a bit limp as you set up the vaporizer in her room and prop an extra pillow behind her, so she's all but sitting up. You sit down on the floor by the bed, rub some eucalyptus on her chest and a little on your own, and then you pull an extra tee shirt over her head and her pajama top over that. She takes another drink of water and asks you to sing "Shadabee." It's three in the morning, but you rest your head on her mattress and quietly begin to sing the nonsense syllables your mother set to the tune "Long, Long Ago." Just a few rounds is all it takes; your little one's cough quiets down and she is asleep. You pad back to bed and pull the covers up to your chin. You drift back to sleep, smelling the eucalyptus.

Your wife wakes you in the night. She calls for her mother first, and then for you; her mother has been dead for thirty years. Your wife has soiled herself again; she is weeping tears of shame. She tells you she is sorry several times, and you tell her it's okay. You weren't a dad who managed dirty diapers very well back when your kids were little, but you are different now. You get up and turn on the lamp. You go to the bathroom for the washbasin and fill it water and with a squirt of the special soap the nurse gave you. You get two more quilted pads out of the closet, and a clean towel. Expertly, you lift your wife's legs, slide the soiled pad out and one of the clean pads under, and begin to wash her. Then you pat her dry with the towel; and finally you change pads again. You move the lamp a little closer to look for sores, as the nurse taught you to do, and there aren't any, which is good. You carry the soiled pad to the bathroom and rinse it in the tub so you don't have to deal with it in the morning. You lie back down and fall asleep immediately, because you are really tired, but not before you wonder for the thousandth time how much longer you're going to be able to keep this up. If it doesn't get any worse than this, you think, I'll be all right. But it's going to get worse than this. Just when, is the question. You decide to think about that tomorrow.

Love transforms service, teaching us that there's no such thing as a menial task. Love teaches us that, if nothing is beneath us, nothing will be beyond us. Love remains with us after our unstinting efforts have all failed -- it doesn't conquer all, as the old saying goes, but it bears all things without turning away from any of them.
Copyright © 2022 Barbara Crafton
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