Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True Love Endures

I was in my parent’s home Valentines weekend. I witnessed again True Love in first person.

My father carefully, faithfully, and tirelessly cares for the love of his life. She is his wife of 50+ years and my mother. This woman, who used to talk all the time, is no longer able to communicate more than just a word or two at a time.

About 8 years ago the symptoms of a cruel disease began to change my mother from a sharp, active, involved person into a woman who is now able to do little more than life’s basic functions. All her life she took care of other people. She hosted them in her home. She visited them in the hospital. She encouraged them in the nursing home. She cooked meals, kept kids, and inconvenienced herself to help other people in need in any way she could. She was always looking for someone she could help in a practical but unique way. She doted over my dad for more than 40 years, attending to his every whim. But now she is the one in need.

My father treats her as his special wife, the one he promised to care for in sickness and health more than a half century ago. In exhaustion a couple of years ago, he had to get some help from a nursing facility. However, he couldn’t stand being away from this woman who had never left his side. Every day he drove more than 25 miles each way to see her for not much more than a few minutes. He couldn’t stand the pain of separation any longer, and found an in-home assistant who could help him care for her so he would never have to be far from her.

I watched and wept as the movie, The Notebook, unfolded a story only too true to my parents. My father is the picture of gentleness. He listens as she tries to read and he reads to her, knowing she will not remember the last sentence. He uses his knowledge as a retired physician to see that she has the right meds and good nutrition. He takes care of her every physical need. He talks sweetly to her as if they were a young couple madly in love. He kisses her forehead and holds her hand. He admitted a few years ago that he was losing the woman of his dreams a little each day, but he has never treated her as anything other than the girl he begged to marry him as a young pre-med student.

Though my father grew up in church, he was not so faithful in attending, until she came along and made it clear that the WHOLE family would be in church together. She taught Sunday School for many years and she influenced him to accept ordination as a deacon, as well as, direct a Sunday School class for their peers. He still takes her to church every Sunday she is able.

Unless the miraculous happens, (and we all still pray for this) she will never recover from this disease this side of heaven. But my father, as long as he is able will love her with a giving, sacrificial love that goes beyond understanding. I pray I’m never entrusted with this kind of care for a loved one, but if I am, my prayer is that I can be as loving and gentle and doting as my father is with my mother.

Ephesians 5:25 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Fly in the Ointment

Wow, great weekend! Don’t you love it when you are able to live out some of the values you are hoping to cultivate in your life… like enjoying the happiness of connection time with family and friends… or the pleasure that comes when you assist someone in your community in some way…or when you are able to escape to a meaningful encounter with the One who is most important in your life?

I had one of those weekends. Looking back, it was a weekend that incites me to gratitude. He even opened up some time to invest in important areas of my life that have sometimes been neglected. As an added bonus, I felt like my family risked some healthy authenticity in areas we’d prefer to protect.

Even after the great weekend I just described, I am so tempted to dwell only on the negatives. I get so sidetracked by the coming stresses of the week I am unable reflect and be grateful. It is like Solomon’s proverbial “fly in the ointment” (Ecc.10:1). I have an extraordinary weekend, spent with extraordinary people, which holds the potential to grow me in wisdom and help me see the value in doing honorable things with good people. Yet, I jump out of bed, slide into a Velcro jumpsuit, strap on the bungee harness and launch myself backward toward the place I was months ago. In mid-flight I find myself hopeful that the Velcro has too much disgusting life lent from past launches to stick. Ultimately, I’m launched forward again to see where I’m headed and land safely where I need to be right now.

I’m ready to outgrow the negative stress and enjoy the strengthening opportunities of positive stress. So, I am choosing (with God’s enabling Power) to think about the good, the noble, the positive, the progress... I really do want the “more than” me >, in spite of my inane attempts to return to the “less than” me < in the piteous limbo of non-progress (which is also considered death to some).

The One who began this work in me will complete it.

Thanks to some extraordinary people and One extraordinary God.