“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
Through the Ten Commandments, God gives us some pretty specific direction and sets a very high standard for the conduct of our lives. Number five in the list tells us that we are to honour our parents and in chapter six of in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul points out that this is the first commandment with a promise. Isn’t it interesting that we should need a promise from God to do what should come naturally?
When we last spent time together, I shared some things I had learned about love and I also mentioned that I was in the process of bringing my father to our place for a brief vacation. I’d like to continue the story as this past month has been very much a time of learning.
After a smooth trip, Dad and I arrived home and enjoyed a wonderful meal with Teresa. Dad didn’t seem too comfortable so I asked if everything was ok. He said he felt cold, so we got him a sweater and adjusted the thermostat upwards a bit. A few days later, he and I were scheduled to attend the Pipe Band’s annual formal dinner. As the day progressed, he complained of being cold and also of abdominal discomfort; he decided that he wouldn’t attend with me. As I had a role in the dinner’s proceedings, I had to go and left him at home with Teresa. The next morning he claimed to be feeling better. The events of the next 48 hours proved that to be untrue!
It was Tuesday morning and I had left very early to play pipes at an awards ceremony for the RCMP. When I returned, we had lunch and immediately afterwards, Dad went up to his room. A few minutes later, he called for help. I had never seen him in such distress. I quickly determined that whatever it was, was not life threatening; but I also knew he needed more medical help than I could provide. We called 911.
Minutes after completing the call, the paramedics arrived and shortly thereafter, Teresa and I were following the ambulance to the hospital. They call it “Hallway Medicine” and it’s supposed to create visions of sub-standard care under third-world conditions. I can confidently say that this was not true in our case. Yes, Dad spent nearly twelve hours in a “hallway” – actually a wide, private corridor that had been converted to a longitudinal ward – but it was far beyond third-world conditions (I’ve been there) and the standard of care and compassion provided was simply outstanding. A few tests and examinations later, it was determined that Dad had a pretty serious hernia that would require a surgical repair. It was 2:00 a.m. and we were all exhausted – not a good time for decision making. Teresa, Dad and I discussed the options, the risks and the benefits then we prayed and left it to God while we slept. The next morning we knew: surgery would be the correct decision.
That single decision had several effects beyond the surgery itself. It brought my sister and brother up from Hamilton, it committed Teresa and I to an unspecified period of post-operative care and it caused some significant changes to our calendar. On the plus side, it did mean Dad would be here to help us celebrate my 65th birthday.
The surgery went off without a hitch and Dad’s recovery has been quite remarkable. It has been a month since I brought Dad from Hamilton for a “short” visit and we are preparing to take him back to Hamilton this coming weekend. Throughout the entire period, God’s caring and teaching hand has been evident in so many ways:
- Had we not brought Dad here, he may well have been alone in his apartment when he suddenly and urgently needed medical attention. Clearly God placed Dad in our home at the right time.
- The 911 operator gave us an ETA of one hour – the paramedics arrived within minutes. God ensured that the medical care and support provided to Dad was nothing short of outstanding.
- I left home, to join the army, at age 17 and have only returned for a few days at a time since. Consequently, in having Dad stay with us for a month, God has provided us with the time for conversations we never would have had otherwise.
- Dad had four full days with all three of his kids (and vice versa) – that too had not happened for more than five decades.
- The extended visit also provided us with a tremendous insight into the changes we can expect to see in ourselves if God allows us the privilege of living nine decades.
- We have learned greater patience as things and actions we currently take for granted, happen much more slowly for our seniors.
- I have learned that my calendar is not the driving force behind my daily life; meetings will happen and decisions will be made irrespective of my participation. The people with whom I am privileged to interact are much more important.
- Once again it has been proven that prayer works. Thank you all for prayerfully contributing to Dad’s recovery.
Not everyone has had a great relationship with their parents, I get that. Regardless, we have been commanded by God to honour our father and our mother. Honouring our parents goes well beyond that of respecting and accepting their authority over us as children. I believe it also means remembering the sacrifices they have made on your behalf and finding ways to reciprocate – even it is inconvenient. It also means, if necessary, taking the first step towards forgiveness and reconciliation.
If you find yourself, as we did, where your normal life is put on hold and turned upside down by the need to care for your mother, father or both, then “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2 (NIV)