1...3...2 Those numbers will be emblazoned upon my heart and soul for as long as I live. It was January 3, 2002 that my mother passed from this life into the next after a maddening battle with Scleroderma. I was fortunate to be able to see her take her last breath and watch her eyes focus as she obviously saw something that I could not see. I firmly believe she was seeing what was to come in the afterlife and she was at peace.
Not many days go by that I do not think of her. She was born November 23, 1940 and so you can do the math and know that she died earlier than expected. As I turned 50 this year, I realized how young 61 seems at this point in my life and it's hard to comprehend only having 11 more years to live.
I have talked with friends who lost parents earlier than expected--some of them much younger than 61. For the most part, the reaction I got matches my own. We feel cheated to some extent. We wonder what those other 20 or 30 or 40 years would have entailed.
Of course, I have seen the other side as well. I have dear friends who have had to watch parents waste away, both physically and emotionally. What a very difficult time to endure with a loved one. I am sure those folks might ask the question from time to time, "Why Me?" or "Why my mother or father?" Why are they having to suffer so much?
And so there we have it. Life. Sometimes life is not kind to us or the ones we love the most. Through it all, I am reminded of Paul's words to the church in Philippi when he writes "I have learned how to be content with whatever I have."
And...what we have is each other--family (both biological and church) and friends. We have these people, some for a short time, some much longer...some through adversity and some through relative quietness.
When I think of my mother's 61 years on this earth, I know for certain that she enjoyed life--every bit of it. She lived her life to the fullest and loved her family and friends to the fullest. Might it be that being content with whatever we have means enjoying those in our lives at this very moment? For we do not know what the future holds.
For those of us who lost a parent early, let us remember fondly the time we had with them. For those of you who still have parents with you, enjoy every moment to the fullest.
1975 -- Mother was 35 and in the middle of her teaching career. She taught 7th and 8th grade math at the same middle school her entire career.
1980 -- Family vacation to Opryland
1995 at age 55
Chuck Strong is pastor at Olive Branch Fellowship Church