Until Death Do Us Part
“Until death do us part.” That pledge is frequently included in wedding vows. For my husband and I, it takes on new meaning in a different family setting as we extend that promise to love and care for our aging parents, until they pass from this life to the next. We are in this unique season of life when our children are becoming independent adults, and our parents are becoming more dependent elders (somewhat like children, but don’t tell them I said that!)
Ephesians 6 reminds us to “Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise. That it may go well with you, and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” To me, this is not an option. But what is the best way to honor and love our parents? Well, we certainly need the daily wisdom of God to ascertain that. We love with words. We love with actions. We love with listening, and sometimes with gentle correcting or guiding. It’s important that our parents retain as much autonomy, independence, and self-reliance as possible, yet we do not want them to be at risk in terms of their safety or over-all well-being.
Currently, I have two sets of elderly parents still living: my mom, Donna (84) and step-dad Rick (76) and my father, Tom (85) and step-mother, Kathy (76). Their health challenges include early prostate cancer recovery, arthritis, much needed knee replacements, ulcerative colitis, edema, atrial fibrillation, hypothryroidism, acute GI bleeding, urinary issues, anemia, thyroid issues, and probably more. Fortunately, all of my parents know the goodness of our great God, and they pray daily for his healing touch.
While my husband and I try to assist our parents in such practical ways as providing transportation, attending doctor visits, regular phone calls, as well as some financial assistance, one of the greatest challenges is the distance between where we all live. We can’t just “pop over” and shovel their snow. Yet they all love where they live, and don’t really want to move. Hmmm. This next season of life should be very interesting.
I try to show empathy and compassion. Someday, I may be in their shoes. I might repeat the same things over and over. I might even get more opinionated as I age. Who knows? But I believe that when we give, it shall be given back to us. With the same kindness and respect my husband and I purpose to show to our parents, it may very likely be given back to me. Make no mistake about it, though. We spend the extra time to love and care because our parents are also fearfully and wonderfully made. Every life is valuable and priceless, from conception to birth, from the first breath to the last. The sanctity of life encompasses all of life.
On a practical and spiritual note, several months ago I gave my father, Tom, a copy of a terrific and timely section in the back of the Kids Fire Bible called, “Verses to Help in Times of Need.” Honestly, I was expecting to just read a few of the 42 verses to him that October evening. As I began to read God’s promises out loud, my dad said, “Why don’t you just read them all?” Eureka! Yes! God’s promises do renew our lives. Since that autumn day in 2018, my dad has been reading those verses virtually every day. (I just gave him that Kid’s Bible and made several copies of the “Verses to Help” so he can have them in various places in his house.) I told him that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17.) So I mentioned that if my dad REALLY wanted to get God’s Word in His head and heart, he can tell his soul to bless the Lord by reading those “Verses to Help in Times of Need” out loud, and often. Sometimes I will call him on the phone and read them to him. He seems to really like this, and he ALWAYS mentions how those promises renew his life.
To contextualize this, my dad is a spiritual, church-going father, but not one to pick up the Bible and really read it. Thus, to have him dig this deep into the Word of God is truly amazing. His hope barometer goes up every time. Even though I live 350 miles away from my Chicago-based dad, I often read these same Scriptures near by bed-side as well. Who would have thought I would have such a special connection with my earthly dad and heavenly papa at the same time? Sometimes hardships can have a way of pointing us all to our Emmanuel, God with Us, when we let them.
May our Heavenly Father, full of compassion, continue to strengthen and guide us as we seek to be his hands extended to our parents. May the Lord bless them and keep them, both now and forever more.
Blessed to be a blessing,