Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 17, 2006
If I could save time in a bottle
As he holds his newborn granddaughter, the author knows his mother is approaching death
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Every so often things happen that change a man forever. They are profound events that make an indelible mark on his heart and even his soul. They have such a powerful effect on him that he will never be the same again - in this world or the next. I call these events "forever moments."
Usually "forever moments" are longer than a moment. They may come in the form of the birth of a child or watching a loved one die. Both these events were happening simultaneously to me.
My granddaughter was being born in the maternity ward at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton. At the same time, on a different floor of the same hospital, my terminally ill mother was receiving treatment. I shuttled back and forth between floors where events at the two ends of the life spectrum were being played out. It was a strange irony.
There I was, suspended between congratulations and consolations. On one floor there was great jubilation to welcome a new life into the world; on the other floor I had to shift internal gears to comfort, console and reassure my 92-year-old mother. She was preparing herself mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the prospect of death.
The difference between the two situations was striking and obvious: A life begins while another is about to end.
The biggest difference between the two lives is age. But that is a puny human perspective. In the eyes of God, the difference between my mother's 92 years and my granddaughter's two hours was insignificant. The Psalms tell us that to God a thousand years are like a day that has just passed (Psalm 90:4).
The similarities between the birth of my granddaughter and the dying of my mother are less obvious but equally striking and poignant.
Struggle marked both events. The baby is so fragile, so dependent on others. My mother (the baby's great-grandmother) is racked with cancer. She is so frail and dependent on others too.
My mother was moved to a palliative care bed in a local hospital closer to her home. My granddaughter was moved to a cradle in her home.
People entrusted with the care of both lives are called to embrace them with tender and unconditional love and nurture. It's easy to identify nurture with children. But an aged person? Absolutely! The need for human nurture never stops until a person draws their last breath. The opportunity to give nurture is always present.
God is using the two events I mentioned to teach me critically important spiritual truths:
Never equate time with value. God loves an old woman on her deathbed as much as the newborn baby. God's immense love envelopes both lives equally. God does not discard or abandon lives that are broken or worn-out in favour of the new lives with potential galore. That may be the way of the world. It may be the way of the cost-benefit analysts or utilitarian bioethicists. But it is not God's way.
King David wrote, "Indeed, you (God) have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before you; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapour" (Psalm 39:5).
David's words bring me to my own sadness watching my mother fade away like a "vapour." Her death vigil is heartbreaking. But my love for my mother will abide even after she is gone from this life. After all, she gave me life.
Holding my beautiful third grandchild is teaching me a thing or two about joy, and generational responsibility to nurture the young. I am astounded at the immense capacity of love to expand and embrace new life.
Holding my beautiful dying mother is teaching me about honouring one's parents, forgiveness and being forgiven, and the privilege of joining her suffering to comfort and console her . . . and generational responsibility to nurture the old until their last breath.
Something tells me that this bittersweet experience with life's vast spectrum is changing me forever. I have shed tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Each tear deepens my understanding about central truths God wants his people on earth to learn. Apparently there are truths taught best here on earth rather than in eternity.
God is using my growing granddaughter and my dying mother to refine my humanity. It's a big task. There's so little time, so much work to do and so few forever moments.
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