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 them 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 happened
simultaneously to me a number of years ago.
My grand-daughter was being born in the
maternity ward of a hospital. 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.
difference between the two lives was age.
But that's 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
were less obvious but equally striking and
Struggle marked both events. The baby was so
fragile, so dependent on others. My mother (the baby’s great-grandmother) was racked with cancer. She was 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 were entrusted with the care of both
lives: they were called to embrace both lives with tender and unconditional love and
(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 was using the two events I mentioned to
teach me critically important spiritual truths:
- Life on earth is transitory, like a brief vapor, then it is
gone. That is why we should invest in matters important to God
more than matters important to man. We should build treasures that last in
heaven and not treasures that rust and rot on earth. We are here such a
- Take every opportunity to lift up and nurture the lives around
- Give reverence to the innate dignity present in every human
- Love life in every state and stage that we find it.
Never equate time with value. God loves an
old woman on her death-bed as much as a newborn baby in a cradle. God’s immense love
envelopes both lives equally. God does not discard or abandon lives that are
broken or worn-out in favor 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 vapor.” (Psalm 39.5).
My mother's death vigil was heartbreaking yet it gave me forever moments with her. Those moments brought new depth to the commandment to honour one’s parents. Those forever moments revealed new dimensions of forgiveness and being forgiven. I was given the privilege of joining her suffering to comfort and console her. Those forever moments taught me about generational responsibility to nurture our old until their last breath. My mother has been dead for nearly 9 years but I cherish those memories and forever moments.
My granddaughter has also been teaching me a thing or two about joy, and generational responsibility to nurture the
young. She will have her 9th birthday old soon. Where does the time go? Her great grandmother would have been proud of her.
[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRRlAaX4Pxs for Chopin, Nocturne 21, C minor, pianist Tzi Erez. My mother taught piano for over 60 years. Even as she was dying, I remember her giving final instructions to a favourite student. ]
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