When I was in seminary, and for a number of years after that, I was involved in a tremendous amount of pre-marital counseling as part of our workplace chaplaincy initiatives. That led to my decision to get involved in performing marriage ceremonies – primarily for couples who fell in love at work and didn’t have a local church they attended. An overwhelming majority of the couples I married were very devout Christians and wanted to have ceremonies that reflected their strong faith and belief in God.
Of course, I had the pleasure to also meet and become friends with a group of wedding professionals who provided different services to couples on their special day. In fact, years ago, a group of us got together and formed a loose coalition of professionals who got to know each other well and enjoyed working together at weddings.
Our group included a deejay, who was very well known in the area and organized the group, a florist, a husband and wife videographer team, and several very talented photographers with many years of experience in the “business.” There were others who came and went throughout the years, but this small group of us formed the core of the group. In fact, I have officiated at the weddings of two of my fellow wedding service providers and have been honored to have stayed connected through social media.
While I don’t conduct as many weddings any more as I am still very active in the corporate community, I have performed hundreds of ceremonies and have deep experience with all of my fellow professionals. I have no doubt that I could walk into a wedding with any of these folks and we would all know intuitively what our respective roles are and what each of us needs to be at our best in our particular area of expertise. It’s pretty much automatic with all of us… The current situation of Randy, one of our group, is the subject of tonight’s post.
Because Randy Baughn, a talented and gifted photographer, is living through a very difficult event – the journey of his father into the depths of dementia. And unlike years ago when many of us experienced the tragedy of illness in a very private manner, Randy has chosen to chronicle the family’s challenges through images and words that he has posted on Facebook. Randy’s strong faith has undoubtedly helped him through this most heart wrenching illness with his Dad.
In fact, Randy’s mother has been ill as well and this has been an additional trial the family has had to face. While she is on the mend, it has been difficult to watch Randy’s father come to the realization that his days of living at home with his wife are now behind him. He will spend the remainder of his life in a facility dedicated to assisting those with memory loss and a decline in cognitive function. The struggles that Randy faces are issues that most of us have either already experienced or will soon experience as we deal with the reality of mortality and aging parents.
But these issues aren’t reserved for our older generation. Randy’s public recording of his journey reminds all of us that we face hardships and that the pain of loss is directly proportional to how much we care. Grieving is the price we pay for caring – if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t have the pain of loss. And Randy’s deep pain is a testimony to his love of his parents as well as his self imposed obligations as a son – a true affirmation of the way he was raised by those same parents – at least one of whom is facing the twilight of his life.
To watch Randy’s father wrestle with his increasing dementia – good one day and nearly unresponsive or combative the next – reminds us all that we are not in control. That’s the dominion of God. To think that any of us can affect the outcome of failing health in our humanness is naive. Randy’s photographic documentation of his father’s decline is a bold, selfless, gift that he has allowed each of us to share with him – beautifully documented in a way that most of us don’t have the talent or the courage to publish. It is a reminder of the hurts that most of us have witnessed as end of life events grow larger on the horizon. In fact, Randy has chosen to end each of his updates with the line, “steady as she goes…” – a way of centering himself, realizing the reality of the amplitude of his feelings day to day as the situation changes moment to moment…
Undoubtedly, Randy’s devout faith, (as well as the faith of those who love him), has made this journey a little easier for him. While the intense pain is undeniable, the fact that we are a band of believers assures Randy that we are all praying for him – for strength and for knowledge to follow the right course of action as his father’s health continues to decline. The images of his father reading the Bible are seared into my mind as I recall the decline of members of my own family. And the expressed love of Randy for his father is something that any parent would be proud of, although I am sure that Randy doesn’t see this as some obligation, but a joy to care for his father in this time of suffering.
Recently, Randy stopped posting images of his Dad. I can understand his desire to memorialize Dad as he was and not as he is… and the images recorded these days may only reflect the shadow of a once vibrant father… Randy would never dishonor him by publishing anything that would not demonstrate dignity and respect – he will just love his father well as best he can in the moment.
The verse for tonight may seem overly simple, but is deeply theological and very difficult to implement. Because it involves giving up control and depending on Jesus to get us through. The apostle John recounts the story of John the Baptist and preparing the way for the arrival of Jesus. As the ministry of Jesus grows, most of the work of John is over and his own ministry starts to fade into the background. And in a very honest, insightful, moment of clarity, John the Baptist tells us, through the apostle John, in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Simple words but so true.
My encouragement this evening is the Jesus wants us to trust in Him. My prayer is that when difficult times come in your life, as is currently the case with Randy, you will have the courage to trust Jesus and realize that our hope is in Him alone. Jesus will not fail us. Most of us think that this will be easy when things are going well, but it is a tremendous challenge for us when the chips are down. That’s when our faith is sorely tested. If you want to travel the remainder of the road with Randy, you may go to Randy Baughn – owner/partner at Randall’s Photography – on FB and add your thoughts and prayers to those of us who already know and love him as a brother in Christ. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…