Do you remember the moment that you realized your parents were not immortal? It seems funny now, but I remember feeling that my parents were invincible. That they were stronger than life itself and would always be there.
I never wondered whose Dad would beat up whose, because my parents were larger than life.
But I remember distinctly the day I realized it was not true. I was almost asleep that night, just after my 10th birthday, when I realized that we are all finite. My grandfather had just passed on and in that moment between sleep and wakefulness it dawned on me, my parents would not live forever either. I still remember crawling out of bed and sneaking into their room just to check and make sure they were alright. I sat and watched as their chests rose up and down with their breathing.
My parents were not extraordinary. They didn’t write symphonies or bestsellers. They were not famous. Just normal people – blue collar and consistent. But to me they were my world. They were hard working, honest, caring, and disciplined. Josephine and Rico ran a tight ship and there was no doubt about who was in charge.
And they taught me many of the life lessons that I still use today.
My dad taught me about loyalty and friendship, while my mom encouraged me to never give up, and about the idea of total sacrificial love.
I remember one night when I was having trouble with homework, and exasperated I threw my book across the room in anger and wanted to quit. My Mom patiently picked up the book, took my hands in hers and whispered something I am sure her mother told her years before (half in English and half in Italian), “strengthen yourself; anything we do is worth doing well”.
I still say that to my kids today. And my words will someday be repeated to their children. In those repetitive words my Mother will live on forever. I don’t know why, but that thought is so comforting to me.
My Mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last month. I remember the phone call from my sister,
“They think it’s Parkinson’s”,
“Dad’s not handling it very well”.
I have to admit it threw me for a loop for a while, I hate that my mom may suffer. I hate the way that the disease can rob you of your movements. More than anything I will hate the feeling of helplessness that I will have. I hate that again mortality is slapping me across the face.
This wonderful women who was always there to help me, was beyond my ability to help.
I knew she is in God’s hands now, but I find comfort in that somehow. After all great thinkers have grappled with the question of pain for ages.
So when I feel like screaming, “why my Mom?”, or “why us?”, I temper it with the thought, “why not us?” what makes us any more worthy of a life without struggles? Would it be better if this happened to someone else?
Mostly I am reminded of the story of Job (written over 3000 years ago), a man who had everything life had to offer, but who systematically lost everything, his fortune, his flock, even his children.
Even his wife told him to “Curse GOD and die.” (Job 2:9). His beautiful response to her was a moving, “Shall I accept good from GOD and not trouble?” (Actually Job did say his wife was “talking like a foolish woman”, but my wife may read this so I may be in trouble for mentioning that!)
Job’s response was truth, plain, simple, truth.
Sometimes in life it rains, sometimes it rains hard. I think all of us are judged by how we handle it.
So some day, when things are rough I will hold my mother’s hands in mine. I will smile at her and whisper quietly to her to “strengthen yourself”.
I will lean down and pick up what she has dropped and whisper “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and I will remind her that life is still worth doing well and that we will get through this.
Most importantly I will remind her (and myself) that God is still God, and he tells us in Psalms 27:1 that, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”.
And though we will both be afraid, we will pray, and hold onto God’s plain and simple truth.
In that moment we will open an umbrella against the downpour.