During the days we've spent in hospital rooms, waiting rooms, touring rehab/skilled nursing facilities, Beve and I have repeatedly heard folks tell us how awesome we are for being so supportive of Grampie during this time. Incidentally, awesome is a word I almost never use for anything but God. Because it comes from the word awe and I like to save my awe for what is truly awe-inspiring, which means, God. Not someone's new hairdo, or the dress they got at a discount price or any one of a thousand things people call 'awesome' in any old conversation. Beve and me hanging out with Grampie awesome? Not even close.
Because there's no place we'd rather be. It's the reason we convinced them to move here. We want to be with Grampie and Thyrza when they need us, and a whole lot of times when they don't.
But the reality is, there are many people in their age bracket who are alone in hospital and nursing homes. Their children live in Iowa, Oklahoma, New York and New Mexico. And all points between. The elders may have burned their bridges but their children have certainly left their parents alone to die. Of course I can't speak to all the reasons those people lie alone in their beds, or sit in their wheelchairs with their heads drooping, unable to look out at the world, but it makes me sad to think the last season of their lives is spent alone. No matter what.
Now, even though we're weary right now, it's easy for us to be with Grampie and Thyrza. They are kind and thoughtful and care greatly for us. This morning when Grampie's pastor came by to see him, Grampie, who'd been barely lucid for three days, looked at the man and said, "I'm sorry we missed church on Sunday." He'd been lying in the hospital with a broken hip Sunday morning, but felt badly he had to apologize for not getting to church. That's the kind of man my father-in-law is. So ministering to Grampie in his 'hour of need' (sorry for the triteness of the phrase) is easy, because we wouldn't be anywhere else.
But I was thinking about how this work we've been doing this week--this all-consuming, full-time, exhausting work--is ministry of the Matthew 25 kind. The sheep and the goats Jesus talked about. I can so clearly see Jesus in my beloved Grampie. His wide smile is Jesus' and his gruff voice speaking my name has God's voice in it. Believe me, I know Jesus is in him. But I've done this work before, when it wasn't so simple, when it was all mixed up with my own complicated feelings about my complicated mother and the work was harder then. But Jesus' words about "That which you did for the least of these, you did for me," have nothing to do with the worth of the 'least of these'. We're talking sick and poor and hungry and naked people. Perhaps parents who have hurt and wounded and continue to be mean and ungrateful and don't want our help. But Jesus doesn't tell us to care only for those who want it. And He certainly doesn't tell us to care only for those who haven't hurt us. That's about as opposite to His teaching as one could get. He tells us to love those who hurt us, to forgive them, and then to minister to those who are hurting. It all goes together. And in that ministering, it's like we're actually ministering to Him. Like HE's the one lying in that extra-long hospital bed with his gnarly old toes sticking out the end of the blanket and his face in need of a shave. Yes, it's Jesus right there in that bed with a broken hip. And all the love we pour out on this old, confused man, is perfume on the feet of our Lord.
There may be excuses for those who are of the world. People who don't know Him may rationalize every which way why they don't do the right thing, why they don't love and care for their elderly parents in practical, present ways. But for us--for those who would call themselves Christ-ones--there is no excuse. We are His. We have Him in us. He loves our elderly parents...and they are the least of these. You know? God intends us to honor our parents. He tells us this. And this season is the last call to honor them on this earth.
If this call comes to you, it's a gift and privilege and responsibility all in one. Don't miss any of it.
That's my soapbox for the day. I think of how long and draining these days are with Grampie, how hard they were with Mom. But in some elemental sense, they are also 'the good old days.' Sure, we're absolutely dead-on-our-feet exhausted, but, for Beve and me, when all is said and done, we will look back on this time fondly, because we were in it together, walked through it with Grampie and Thyrza, and got to minister to Jesus in them. Yes, we'll think, those were the good old days. And we wouldn't have missed them for the world.