As I watched my mom lean on my sister, and her legs freeze up and not move how she wanted them to, I had to fight back the tears. You see, my mom has Parkinson’s disease. She and my precious dad still live together independently in a home that we just downsized them to in the Ozark, MO area 6 months ago. My husband and I were “soul resting” (more on that another time) at a family lake house in Missouri for a few days, and I had planned to drive down to my parent’s house to help them put up their Christmas tree and decorations. It is impossible for my mom to do that any longer and very hard on my 82-year-young dad, but still a high priority for my mom. (You should see how cute their house is!)
My sister lives 10 minutes from my parents, my brother lives 3 hours away in the same state, but my husband and I live 8 hours away from them. We live in a time when it is uncommon for adult children to live in the same town (let alone state) as their parents. Look at my girls—all three are living currently in states very far from us. Sniff, sniff. But they are serving God and we knew that might be a sacrifice we had to make, as my own parents knew. So as our parents age, it begs the question (especially for those of us who live far from them)...
How do we honor them?
I know not all of you have had to deal with this yet, or even worse, you have had to deal with a parent having a horrible disease, such as cancer, and have struggled to manage it from afar!
The thing is, honoring your parents isn’t an option if you call yourself a follower of Christ. You know it was one of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:12). Jesus mentioned it to the wealthy ruler in Luke 18, and even from the cross, Jesus made sure his own mom was going to be taken care of (John 19:25-27).
We are told to honor (it is a verb in this passage—which requires action!). And according my MacBook dictionary, it means to respect, esteem, exalt, pay tribute, dignify, keep a promise. So how do we do that?
Here are a few suggestions that I have for this challenge (and I am not saying I am great at these, by any means), some ways to honor our parents whether near or far. Some of this I am taking from the example of others, some from what I would hope my own girls will do for me (are you reading, Rachel, Lauren, & Becca??!! ). Please add your own ideas and share them with me. I LOVE to constantly learn and grow!
Call them weekly.
I know, it sounds too simple and your time is so limited, and your mom talks about dumb stuff sometimes: ducks, birds, grocery prices, her health, etc. But, think about it, her life has slowed down a lot and there are just not as many exciting things in her life now as when you were home—when she was raising YOU!
Arrange to visit when they need physical help.
When my parents moved this last year, all of us siblings arranged our schedule to help them pack up. We were smart and had my dad hire movers … but no one else can sort through their stuff and encourage them in getting rid of items they won’t need or have room for any more. And you know what else, even though we worked our tails off (not literally, but I wish!), my siblings and I had fun together. We really did. And, my sister and her husband, my husband and I just decorated their house for Christmas yesterday. My parents could not say thank you enough. They are so sweet. Have I told you that?
View them with new eyes.
Seriously. My parents are not the same healthy, active, sharp, vibrant people they were when my girls were born. And it is hard to watch. I know for myself I went through a time of denial, and I am ashamed to say, even a time of anger that they weren’t as sharp. It is not their fault. My daughter Lauren, who majored in psychology, told me that the human brain literally changes causing people to regress to be more childlike. Knowing that can drastically help your understanding and perspective.
If there is no one close to look out for them, move them close to you.
It is difficult to do because if we are honest, we are selfish individuals, we know it’s going to inconvenience us and cramp our lifestyles. I have a girlfriend who just had to do this with both her parents and her husband’s parents. We talked about how life would change but this was now very necessary in order to honor them.
Try to make sure they have something to do on holidays.
I try to send them cards or a gift for even the smaller holidays, but I haven’t even been able to spend Thanksgiving or Easter with my parents in years due to our ministry and the distance. I am so thankful that my sister is so great about this, having them over for dinner for holidays. Thank you, Michele.
Try to do something fun with them whenever you can.
Maybe it’s taking them out to eat, maybe it’s playing a game (my mom loves this), maybe it’s baking or shopping or crafting together, depending on their health. But there is nothing they like more. Really.
I am sorry that some of you have had rotten parents. Or you now deal with two sets of parents because they split up sometime along the way. Or, whenever you are with them, all they do is gripe and yell at you, and “sweet” is the last word in the world you would use to describe your parents. I won’t judge you. Just pray that God would open your heart and eyes to what you can do and that He would give you the grace and strength to do it. I have a friend whose mother was extremely horrible and neglectful to her as she was raised, but as she now follows Christ and has His spirit in her, my friend now has her mother living next door and is taking care of her! Only by the grace of God.
Let’s learn to honor. And just remember, someday, that it will be you.
I love you, mom and dad! I pray I can honor you enough because you deserve it! You’ve blessed my life more than you can know!
Happy thanksgiving, from afar!
Learning as I live,