I just finished reading Nancy Rue’s latest novel, Pascal’s Wager. Nancy is a great writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. She has a wonderful, understated sense of humour and I found myself laughing out loud often. One of my favourite lines is “… I was so unpolished that my mother would probably come down from the podium with a can of Pledge.” The book, however, has a serious theme. The mother of the main character, Jill McGavock, is diagnosed with dementia, Pick’s Disease to be exact, which advances rapidly. Her world shaken, Jill sets out on a spiritual quest to determine if everything she recognizes in her mother; her personality, intelligence, professional persona, is gone, is there, deep down, anything of her mother that still remains? In essence she attempts to discover whether or not a person has a soul that continues to exist when the rest of that person is gone.
Pascal’s Wager gave me a lot to think about, especially this weekend. I had a wonderful, sweet doctor for years who, at 52, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had to give up her practice. That was five years ago. Two weeks ago she was admitted to a retirement home because her devastated, heartbroken family could no longer take care of her at home. This weekend I was at the retirement home for an event and dropped in to see her. I hadn’t seen her since before her diagnosis and wasn’t sure what to expect. When she saw me, she studied my face intently, as though searching for a name. I studied her in turn, searching for the woman I have long admired and cared about. When recognition finally flickered and she called me by name, her face lighting up, I saw her, for a few seconds at least. The moment was heartbreaking, but also powerful. She is still there, deep down, in that sacred, immortal place that no disease, physical or mental, however devastating, can ever touch.
That place has been formed and given life by a creator God. If a writer, in the act of creating, can infuse his or her character with at least a hint of that deep, inner, divinely-shaped soul, the story will come alive, and will impact the reader on a deep, unforgettable level.
And maybe, for a brief moment at least, in the writing and in the reading, our faces will light up as a flicker of recognition sparks deep within, of the immortal spirit inside of us, and of the eternal creator by whom and for whom it exists.
Press on, my friends. Press on,