Last weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day, COVID-19 style. It was not our usual family-centered day of church attendance, good food, and fellowship. Instead, we celebrated by visiting my mom and dad through the French doors of their assisted living center.
My mother was thrilled to see one set of the great-grandkids for even the briefest windowpane visit. It made her day. But it was very disturbing to our oldest granddaughter. As she got back into their family vehicle after the short visit, her mom was crying, and she was near tears as well.
“It’s just not right,” she exclaimed. “It’s just not right, and it’s so sad.”
Considering my parents have been quarantined from physical contact with any of their children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren for almost 10 weeks, I had to concur. In their 60-plus years of marriage, this is the longest they have ever been without family.
Plus, they have been relegated to their small dorm-style apartment with no outside contact other than daily pop-ins from a few nurses and caretakers. They can only venture outside if no one else is in their resident courtyard. And even though they both have great attitudes, I imagine it is a boring, depressing, and very lonely existence.
They are not the only senior citizens suffering alone. This pandemic quarantine has been hardest on our oldest Americans. And even though we know it is most important to keep them safe and separated, as my granddaughter stated – it is just so wrong.
What if my parents are spending the last days of their long, blessed lives alone, away from us? I want to be with them and honor them and enjoy them, and I want them to be able to enjoy us as well.
When I think of all my parents have done for me over my 58 years of life, I want to cry. What if the last time I see one of them alive is staring through a windowpane, without touching? Somehow, it just seems so wrong – the two of them existing in a small two-room apartment. It’s definitely not how I pictured the latter part of their lives. I want to do as much for them as they have done for me and my family.
But in my sadness, God gently reminds me He is there with them, and He is more than enough. In fact, He is all they need. God also reminds me they knew Him long before I ever did. In fact, they introduced me to Him. And because we all belong to Him, we will never really have to say goodbye. Jesus made sure of that on the cross.
Speaking of eternity, I am reminded of a pivotal conversation I once had with my father’s mom, my Grandma Katie. She was 98 at the time, and she was getting ready to go home. Her mind was sharp, but her body was simply giving out.
She even came close to dying on more than one occasion in a two-week period. But every time the doctors would call in the family to say our goodbyes, Grandma Katie would “perk up” after seeing us and rally back around. Of course, we loved it, but we also knew she would eventually be too weak to rally.
The final time I saw her, she rallied one more time, so we all took a quiet, private moment with her. During my final visit, we both laughed at her strength and ability to keep on going, which we both recognized as the same stubbornness I had inherited from her.
She seemed a bit anxious, which was a very unusual attribute in my grandmother. (I am sure she had plenty of worries and cares in a century of living, but she bore them with quiet resolve.)
So I proceeded with caution, asking if she was afraid of dying. She assured me she was not. Grandma Katie said she just hated to leave her children, in case they needed her. I assured her we would all take care of each other, just as she had taught us to do. She said she expected no less. We both laughed!
It was a fitting end to our relationship, for laughter and joy were a part of all we did together, even in hard work or tough times.
I think of our final moments together now, the courage it took for her to let go of us, after 98 years of loving and tending to us. And I laugh as well, because the truth is, God did not need her to take care of us. He was perfectly capable without her. He simply gave her the gift of mothering us all, just like He gave me the gift of being a part of such an amazing family. She and I both were simply instruments in the hand of a very loving, gracious heavenly Father
That final memory gives me comfort in this time of pandemic, windowpane visitation with my parents. I understand God doesn’t need me to take care of them. He doesn’t even need me to make sure they are honored and recompensed for a life well-lived. And He certainly does not need me to navigate their home-going. He has the perfect plan for their final days on earth and their unending days in eternity.
With perfect assurance, I simply place my trust in God, just as my grandmother did before me, just as my parents are doing now. Ironically, by looking through the windowpanes of their daily lives, I learned firsthand that He is faithful and trustworthy, no matter what I face.