The Honor of Age

June 2, 2011

"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12 Tom's mother and I just came home from the grocery store. We were planning lunch, but it's too darn hot. So we went to the store, then to the drive-through for a chicken sandwich - which she hardly ever gets since she stopped driving. She just called to tell me how good it was with the real, not diet, soda she got.... Small treats for one who spends a lot of time by herself, even if some of it is by choice. She is of hearty stock, and she is most aware of the strength it takes to persevere through the struggles of life. Mother Campbell lives in an independent living apartment nearby. Her favorite decorator came and jazzed up her home with color and fabric - yellows and blues. Her lifelong collection of beautiful things surrounds her and despite a few health issues, she is generally content with the way things are. And even when she says, "Oh, honey, I have lived too long," she does not stay in that place long. When I married her son almost 47 years ago, I really didn't think about her being the last parent standing. My parents died when they were in their 70s. Tom's dad in his early 80s. Mother Campbell is 89, and I must say, going strong. Some of the greatest lessons of life I have learned have been from her. She is the one from whom I learned forgiveness. She is the one from whom I learned to "cut my losses." The two things I have not yet learned - even though she has tried to teach me - are knitting and making biscuits. We live in an age and culture where older people - those over about 55 - are not able to find meaningful work, no jobs, no advancement, not a lot of honor. Families frequently live far away from parents, and even when they are close by, work and general busyness keep people from seeing one another. Recently we aging ones have even been assigned a role in Lovett Weem's Death Tsunami. In many places age has become liability, not worth the risk. But not in my house. Today I celebrate that I have been able to honor my mother-in-law. Today, I know how Ruth felt when she told Naomi, "Your people shall be my people and your God, my God." What would it mean for 21c. America to honor the aged, to employ the gifts of wisdom they bear? We are so quick to be aggravated in their slowness, impatient in their infirmities, but here is the truth: if we live, we age. Too soon we are they. The commandment to love mothers and fathers has a "so that...." attached to it. "So that your days may be long in the land the Lord is giving you." There is a promised blessing in such honor of generations. Perhaps this is a day for evaluation - How do I honor the aged around me? What do I need to do differently? At every level of our society, this is a concern that is not going away, but only increasing over the coming years. Let us commit to pray on this situation, to see blessing and opportunity over problem. And to God be the glory.

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