This week is an anniversary of sorts for my siblings and me, though not a happy one. The 22nd marked the 3rd anniversary of the day our mother died, and today (the 27th) is the day our dad died in 1997.Yep, orphans now. Funny to think of that, since the youngest of us is in his forties and a couple of us can barely pretend we're in our mid-fifties (though I'm trying!). But that's the truth. An orphan is someone who has no parents. And that's us.
When our mother began to decline with Alzheimers, I began to think about being an orphan, a concept I'd barely considered before. The truth is that it hadn't been possible have a real mother/daughter relationship with Mom for years. Well, it was for my sister, RE, but that's because Mom thought RE was her mommy. And RE knew it was important to go along with that upside-down reality. But a real relationship? Not so much. I remember when it really hit me, too. Beve's sister had a stroke in the fall of 2009 and was comatose in a Seattle hospital. Dying. My instinct was to call my mother. But by then my mother wasn't able to use the phone, couldn't speak clearly and wouldn't have known who or what I was talking about. I missed my mother when Glo died, just being able to talk to her, just knowing she'd care.
But what I've learned over the last three years is what God has been teaching people through-out history. It's the story of Ruth. We are all orphans, and none of us are. That's the paradoxical truth of it all. The story of Ruth is pretty personal to my family because my parents loved it so much they not only used 1:16 in their wedding but named a daughter because of that story. Ruth. My little sister bears the name of this wonderful story of an orphan. An outsider whom God used as part of the lineage for His begotten Son. Ruth famously had no family and wasn't even considered one of the Chosen ones--an Israelite. Only a mother-in-law who also had lost everyone, everything that mattered to her. These two women clung to each other, "Beseech me not to leave you," Ruth told Naomi. "For your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
An orphan. God took her in. Used her. God said, You are MY child.
That's the glad truth of it. We're on our way to being orphans. Or, to be clearer, we are all lost and without a home. We are all Ruth. And He says to each of us, "You are my child. I am your Father." Sometimes it takes actually losing a parent to learn this. Losing someone, anyway. But we must learn it.
We are loaned our parents, just as we are loaned our children. And maybe, because they're loaners, we should pay careful attention to how we love them, to how we engage with them. That's another thing I've learned in the years since my dad died. I never imagined he'd die so young (just 10 years older than I am today). And I didn't always hold him lightly. I gripped him hard. And took him for granted, and all the things people do when they don't know. But God knew. And God knows today how long we have with each of our beloveds. So today, the child-of-the-Father me knows that the only one I must grip is HIM. Everyone else I must love deeply, and hold loosely. Love and surrender. Love and love and love to Him. And trust Him with their lives. And you know? As I've learned this, I think I'm becoming an easier mom, a mom who lets her children live their lives, follow His call. And that's just what He intended. My children aren't orphans, either. They belong to Him.