February 13, 2001
It was a difficult week. We received a call from Home Care saying my mother must be moved from her home in a senior’s manor to a long-term care facility in another city.
My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. She cannot remember the names of things, like her clock or her lamp. For her, change is most stressful. If moving were not confusing enough, she would be in a different kind of space, cared for by people she had never known.
For me, the physical effort to move her was challenging but nothing compared to the emotional pain of watching her struggle with another adjustment. To add to that stress, I recently heard a woman from an advocacy group for the elderly describing incidents of elder abuse and how helpless family members are to combat it. How would this place take care of my mother? Would she be safe? Could she tell me if she was not?
After interviewing the staff in her new situation, it became obvious that my fears were groundless. They understand her needs and have adequate staff to meet them. The other seniors enjoy being there. The staff instantly began showing Mom affection with a loving and kind attitude. She was soon smiling and taking notice of the new things around her.
At the same time, my mom is often on my mind. God commands that we honor our parents. Sometimes I falter at knowing how to do that even though my mother is not at all a “cranky old lady” but an easy-to-please sweetheart.
The command to honor parents runs throughout Scripture, even to include that we must also honor and protect all senior members of our society. The Lord makes no distinction between strong and healthy, weak and infirm. In His sight, they are to be cared for and respected.
Honoring aging people makes sense. It is in them that we find our history and the wisdom of experience. They have the stories of our past and even if we have heard them many times, we need to encourage the telling. Without it, we lose a sense of our place in history.
While age does not necessarily bring wisdom, it should. Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Some versions insert an “if” in the middle. Righteousness is an integral component of becoming wise.
As I visit my mother, I sometimes chat with others of her era. For the most part, these older people have picked up many insights. They have a humor about life, a casualness that almost mocks the way this generation runs its rat race. They have learned that life is short and some things are not nearly as important as we think. Yet even if they are unable to share their stories and wisdom, aging people still have great value. Those who cannot talk or care for themselves offer us opportunity to take care of them.
In my situation, having guardianship for my mother (and my father before he died) brought me to a deeper reliance on God. Their needs pulled from me a compassion and kindness that I might not otherwise have developed. Through them, God is working on my ability to care.
The New Testament says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
A widowed mother could bring me distress if I forgot that she herself is in distress. She needs me to take my faith seriously. While this is not an easy assignment, it does keep my hands from being idle. Who knows, could this task be God’s way of filling my life with so much to do that I don’t have time to meddle in the world’s pollution?
Lord, You know my prayers for my mother. May Your Spirit continue to nurture her and give her joy. May that same Spirit grant me grace and energy that I might be a part of how You answer those prayers.