“Now, my mom was not Chronically Ill, living with years of pain. But she did suffer quite a bit for the better part of a year and lived with cancer for over four years. My dad was awesome during that time. She died in 2000 and I was blessed to be able to tell my dad what God had shared with me.”
July 25th, 2000
I am writing this late at night and I am crying as I do. Not because of you. But maybe some things we need to say are long overdue…I want you to know how proud I am of you. If I never respected you ever before (and I state that with an IF) or showed you the respect I had for you, the respect I have for you now makes up for the past 1000 times over. I watched you over the last weeks and months of mom’s life and drew inspiration from you. I never understood your love for each other, but seeing you care for her tirelessly and above and beyond any persons reasonable capabilities showed me more about the strength of God and of true love than just about anything I’ve ever known.
Your labors of love, trips to the store, drives to the doctor and hospital, your “attempts” in the kitchen, patience, response to mom’s every request, catering to her childlike “tastes”, your humility and servant heart in “changing” and bathing mom, all the ways you denied yourself, dignified her, supported her, sympathized with her and fought battles for her elevated you in my eyes to new heights.
Thank you for loving my mom so well. Thank you for being there more than any one single person. Thank you for keeping and fulfilling your marital vows to her and loving her, cherishing her, honoring her and respecting her until death parted you. Thank you for modeling that kind of love to me. She was so lucky to have had you all these years and especially till she drew her last breath. I am lucky to have had both of you together as my parents. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who never gave up on each other or the permanency of marriage even when the going got tough.
I would not be who I am today at this very moment had I not had the privilege of coming over to help you, to “baby sit” mom, to wash her beautiful hair and touch her when she needed loving, supportive, caring, life-giving human touch. I am changed by the un-welcomed need I could fill in her life even though I owed her so much more.
I’ve never heard of a more beautiful thing in my whole entire life than how you would “strip” down, help mom get ready for a shower and get right in there with her, holding her up, washing her, drying her off, just so she could be clean. Maybe to you that seemed perfectly natural, but I was struck by the profound reflection of Christ-like love in you.
Humor me by letting me quote from my favorite book, the bible, something that struck me as I wrote the above paragraph. From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with the water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
I love just about every word of the bible and this is one of my favorite verses. But sometimes understanding a 21st century application of the Word of the Lord is difficult. Dad, I’ve looked my whole life for an up close personal example of authentic Christianity, one that proved so clearly that what the bible says is true and that God’s ways are the best ways. Finally, I see my most life-changing example in front of me.
I’ve looked for the kind of sacrificial love that asks nothing in return. I assumed at times I knew exactly where I would find it based on my ideas of “how things are supposed to be.” Despite my idealism and optimism, I have learned that in reality, that kind of love is very, very rare. By the grace of God, or your own personal goodness, or some other unseen reason, you exemplified the possession of that very rare quality. I hope you know that the Lord has worked through you and used you dearly, blessing mom and glorifying God, and that someone was watching and learning.
Undoubtedly, mom’s spiritual blamelessness and holiness is purely a matter between her and the Lord that rests on Christ and the Cross alone. But I am sure the first thing God noticed when she walked in was how radiant she was! He probably said, “Boy, that Rollie did a great job!” Well, anyway, I sure thought she looked radiant whenever we would help her clean up. And I noticed how it wasn’t just about appearances either. Mom had a definite inner radiance that never faded. I believe what my bible says, and that inner quality comes from being loved – God’s way.
I miss mom more than anything and I miss the friendship we were just beginning to build that we’ll never be able to share this side of heaven. I don’t have nearly enough family in this world and I could hardly spare one more person. I bet you are much better at moving on than I am, but I am sure you miss her too. I’ll always remember what you did for her. I sometimes think you saved the best for last. You shared, however, I am sure many special times with mom and have uncounted memories. For this you are both blessed, and just knowing it is so, I am blessed, too.
Well, I wanted you to know what I really thought, and I didn’t just think up this stuff right now. I have told several other people in talking about mom about your amazing love and how you showed her in every gesture. I just didn’t take the time to tell you yet. So always remember this is what I really think. I feel very, very, very humbled to know so much love, and loss, and humanity and awe in things as simple as love and family, living and dying.
With all my heart,