Keeping the Fifth Commandment

I’m in Frederick, Maryland, today, honoring my father and mother by taking care of them while my brother Scott and his family prepare for his daughter’s wedding at their farm in West Virginia. 

It’s been a pleasure.

This morning, for example, Dad came in to breakfast with a memory about sacking oats in his boyhood with a fellow named “Willie T.”  Dad said, “There we were, sacking oats in that little shed with the tin roof on it, on one of the hottest days in the summer, and boy, did Willie T stink!”  I had never heard that story before, and I had to look for a place to file the mental picture it created.

And then Mom spread out all her family photos on the dining room table while I was doing some reading for Sunday’s sermon.  One after another she would push them across to me and ask me if I remembered this or that event.  There they were: pictures of me and my brothers, my grandparents, some of the places we used to live.  Most of them I had seen before, but some of them were new.  Again I looked for places in my brain to store the images. 

The mental file cabinets are overflowing.

I’ve cooked meals for my folks, washed dishes, helped Dad get a shower, helped Mom find a pen—all those things they used to do for me without grumbling or complaining.  And it really is that endless stream of “little things” that flows into the pool of family love.  They did them for me, and now I get to do them for them, and the pool gets deeper and wider. 

If there were a theme for this Fifth Commandment Retreat it might be “Abundance”: an abundance of memories, an abundance of love, an abundance of care once received and now given with gratitude.  “Honor your father and mother,” God said.  Today it strikes me not so much as a command but as an offer, as a way of entering into abundant life.  But those of you who have cared for your aging parents know how it goes:

Tomorrow may be another story altogether.

3 thoughts on “Keeping the Fifth Commandment

  1. Soak up every moment and place them in a vault in your heart so that they will never escape. Precious times with precious people are precious and priceless gems.


  2. Jim,

    I know that I do not have to tell you this, but I am going to tell you anyway. Cherish these moments that you are spending with your dear parents. These moments are creating memories that you will carry with you the rest of your life and will help you to get through those days when your parents are no longer here with you. I found the following poem online and, knowing what little about your childhood and your parents, I think that it is appropriate for this situation. I also think that the poem can describe my own childhood with my parents.

    I Wasn’t Raised
    By Charlise Butner

    I wasn’t raised in a mansion
    Or fed with a silver spoon
    I wasn’t brought up to think money is everything
    Because only fools believe that’s true
    I wasn’t raised to live out my parents dream
    But to proudly dream my own
    I wasn’t raised to walk the popular path
    But to strongly pave my own
    I wasn’t raised with material things
    But something great indeed
    I was raised with love
    And love is all I need

    My father died 13 years ago this month. My mother died 2 1/2 years ago. My memories of their last days are not all pleasant because their lives were not easy for them in their last days. However, I treasure those the memories of those days because I feel that in my parent’s last days I was able in some small way to be there for them and to care for them as they had been there for me and cared for me over the years. I am sure that is how you must feel as you help with your parents. “Tomorrow may be another story altogether”. Yes that is true, but tomorrow will take care of itself. Enjoy today and enjoy the time that you have with your parents while you still have the opportunity.

    Take care and best wishes to you and your family, especially your parents.

    Ron Smith

  3. During the 1970s, while attending East Tennessee State University, I got money for college by working as a nurses aide at the Bristol Memorial Hospital in Bristol, Tennessee(sometimes I would work a 40 hour weekend). Taking care of adults can be back breaking work but I was able to do it because they weren’t related. Although always polite and kind to them, I could maintain a certain amount of objectivity in handling their care. My sister, Laura Ann, has been taking care of our elderly mother for quite some time now as she also did with our father before he went on to be with the Lord. I would find that to be so hard to do since I would not be able to maintain objectivity. My caring about them would actualy interfere with my caretaking. I guess that’s why physicians often tend to let a colleague provide medical care for their families. I don’t see how my sister manages to do it with Mom, but she does. And I admire you and your family for taking such good care of your parents. May God bless them and you and the rest of your family. By the way, I had thought that your parents were living in South Carolina. Have they moved?

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