The Gospel Proclaimed…

Since early September I have been living in my childhood home in Spring City, PA with my dad, who is in a gentle stage of dementia. I wanted to use this time of imposed sabbatical to work on some personal things, be present in his life and give breaks to my brother and his wife who live next door. 

As well, I have been cleaning out rooms and the basement, discovering a few gems but mostly decades of memories and fleetingly meaningful detritus. 

This time has been deep, occasional hilarious, and an exercise on being present in the moment.

I’ve also dabbled in a new written form, with apologies to actual poets… 


During supper the gospel is proclaimed.

Willie, Johnny and EmmyLou

sing of grace and blood, and sacrifice.  

Prepared by care-giver for Dad.

She, with a Menno background 

‘Fallen away’ and returned,

carrying life as a blessing and a burden. 

Oft times tattered and wounded,

with a love for cowboy boots and cowboy songs

and gospel sung by the stars who hold a similar need 

to sing the old songs.

The ones that harken them back

back to simple homes and simple faith.


Dad says, “We let the music be our prayer”

I held for a beat, fork in hand.

Willie’s benedictal twang gave us amazing grace

and so we gave our amen. 


Dad is a pleasant dementia sufferer

Much like a happy drunk.

This insidious disease for him

an annoyance 

rather than angry and tear-filled.

Like Mom’s.


For him

each meal is savored,

“Oh that’s good”

The Special K.

“Wow, that is so good”

The yogurt 

“There’s just something about a banana”

Well, the banana. 


The night I made supper.

“Do you have some music?”

I do, but

no gospel music on my phone.

Bruce, Rhiannon, Kottke and Cohen


and Brandi Carlisle.

So with the BarBQ and sautéed asparagus

Brandi sang our prayer.


I haven’t seen my father in some time

But his face is always staring back at me

His heavy hands hang at the ends of my arms

And my colors change like the sea

But I don’t worry much about time lost

I’m not gunning for the dreams I couldn’t find

‘Cause he taught me how to walk the best that I can

On the road I’ve left behind

But most of all

He taught me to forgive

How to keep a cool head

How to love the one you’re with

And when I’m far into the distance

And the pushing comes to shove

To remember what comes back

When you give away your love

Give away your love

When you give your love away

Give away your love

-Most Of All        B. Carlisle 


In the house I left at 19, with the man

Who raised us with benevolent neglect

Who will ask me 37 times

“When we are leaving tomorrow?”


We communed together


While Brandi gave us the Gospel. 


Ted Swartz 9.20.2020


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  1. Joy Liechty Yoder on October 28, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Ted! So profound!

  2. Thomas Arthur on October 28, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Beautiful. Painful. With you as you were with me dealing with my mother’s Alzheimers.

  3. Nancy Heisey on October 29, 2020 at 6:33 am

    I love that: 37 times the same question. It sounds familiar. It sounds like love.

  4. Sam Lapp on October 29, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Thanks, Ted. You had a great if at times neglectful dad – like most of us did. I’ve known your parents for about 60 years and always loved being around your dad who was a great conversationalist, at times a cynical critic, and yet also had a very sensitive emotional side that would break out sometimes when least expected. Thanks for this post and for “coming home” to provide helpful care at this difficult stage of life. Sam Lapp