A colleague of mine, along with her brothers, has been a faithful caretaker of her elderly parents. She was there to help them as their bodies succumbed to the illnesses which eventually led to their deaths—about two months apart from each other. Although she has the comfort of knowing their names are written in the Book of Life, there are still the mixed emotions that accompany the death of one’s parents.
Back in the early 1980s, my husband and I brought his mother into our home to live with us. Since I grew up with my maternal grandparents living on the first floor of our house, I was accustomed to an additional family member being present all the time. Having three generations living together, while at times challenging, is also quite rewarding. Children and the elderly have much in common and appreciate each other in ways that are beautiful to witness.
Nevertheless, taking care of parents in their advanced years is exhausting and frustrating at times. One doesn’t have the easiest of patients to deal with, and one’s own patience can often wear thin. Yet, obeying the fifth commandment to honor our parents in this way brings blessings beyond measure. That is, if you have eyes to see them.
None of us will live forever this side of heaven. Spending time with someone who is very close to eternity brings a sobriety and appreciation for God’s design of life. Often the elderly person has important things to communicate and a willing, active listener benefits as well as helps. Moreover, there is an opportunity for the son or daughter who fulfills the role of caregiver/companion to value the health and life God has provided for them.
Some of the sweetest (and most honest) times I enjoyed with my mother-in-law came when it was apparent that she didn’t have much longer to live. We had conversations about her childhood, her career as a nurse, funny times we experienced together, and memories she cherished. When the day came that my husband, two children, and I were with her when she breathed her last breath, an unexpected void filled my life that I hadn’t anticipated. Amidst all the responsibilities I had discharged during her life with us, a genuine day-in and day-out friendship had developed. I was faced with life without this special friend.
Psalm 90:12 tells us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” To my colleague and her family, along with others who are acting in obedience by caring for elderly parents, know that God is using this season in your life to conform you more to the image of His Son.