Mom’s in the hospital. The short text message jarred me from a mid-afternoon rush through the grocery store as I planned for Christmas Eve dinner. Soon another message followed with more details. Mom had gone to see her cardiologist because she wasn’t feeling well. She was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with a heartbeat twice the normal rate.
At that moment, with my cell phone in one hand and a bag of turnip greens in the other, I was torn. What did honoring my mother mean at that moment? And how did that stack up against our family plans to celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and gift exchange? Was it even fair to compare the two? Would I be a bad daughter if I didn’t immediately leave the produce aisle and rush to the airport, catching a flight to Kansas to take care of my mother? This would be the first Christmas that our son from California and his family were planning to spend with us. Should the family go ahead with the dinner without me?
I asked the Lord for wisdom, and He provided great peace. We were able to confirm that Mom was stable, and that she had not had a stroke or a heart attack. Our plans would move forward for Christmas Eve, and then I would catch a flight to Kansas.
George and I had decided that I should purchase a one-way ticket. If Mom was open to coming to stay with us for a while, he would drive up and we’d bring her back home to Chicago. We weren’t too hopeful that she’d accept our invitation as she has been adamant about living in her own home and not burdening any of her children.
When I arrived, Mom’s face was drawn, and the wear of the last couple of days was showing. As we talked through the night, I finally broached the touchy subject of her moving. “Mom, we really love you and hate to think of you being this far away by yourself. We really want you to come to Chicago so we can take care of you.”
I know it was only seconds before she replied, but it seemed like eternity. When she responded, it was clear a lot had changed. “Honey, I don’t know what to do.” My heart broke, as I could see how difficult it was for her to begin to grapple with change she could not control.
We made the trip back to Chicago together, and it has been almost three weeks now. I’m not sure if this will be a permanent move or not, but it has been so rich to have Mom with us. Sunday dinners with four generations around the table are special moments we all treasure.
Concerns about caring for aging parents aren’t always well thought out or planned for. It can be difficult to know how best to honor them in the winter years of life. How has God led you to honor your parents as they have aged? What lessons have you learned that can help guide others who are just beginning to think about these issues?
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12).