We honor our parents in many ways:
- As a child, by obeying and respecting.
- As a young person, by accepting and appreciating them.
- As an adult, by affirming and not abandoning them.
I think we preach 1 and 2, but we’ve done a poor job on number 3. We need to honor our parents when they get older and not abandon them. “Honor your father and mother” isn’t just for little children.
Walter Wangerin is one of the best storytellers ever. Walter tells of a time when he visited a friend Mel on a crisp autumn afternoon in Wisconsin. Mel spent much of his time reading and studying in his parlor, where he could be with his aging mother. As Walter entered his friend’s home, he was enveloped in the wonderful aroma of apple pie. “Oh, I see your mother is baking pies,” Walter said with a smile.
“No,” Mel answered. “I see to the necessary things now.” Looking around, Walter understood what he meant. There was a pool of light cast by Mel’s reading lamp, and just beyond it, in a bed, was Mel’s ailing mother. Walter had known her for years. Now she sat propped up, her face an empty slate. Mel made introductions as though they’d never met. As Walter reached forward and shook her hand, her watery blue eyes never gazed higher than his stomach. Walter sadly comprehended: A dear old friend that no longer knew him.
After sharing a walk and a slice of apple pie with his friend, Walter retired to bed. In the middle of the night he was awakened by a sound from the parlor. Someone seemed to be in great pain. There were awful, inarticulate screams coming from downstairs: “Yeeeahhhh! Naaaaaaah!” He rose quickly, wrapped a robe around himself, and hurried down to the parlor.
Mel wasn’t in his chair. With eyes adjusting to the darkness, Walter could see his friend Mel kneeling beside the bed of his mother. Mel motioned for Walter to be seated. As Walter did so, he became aware of an awful odor, and he knew what his dear friend was doing — he was changing his mother’s diaper. He was cleansing his mother with tenderness and grace. He was honoring her in the very spirit God prescribed for the honoring of parents.
And as he did so, he softly sang. He was singing lullabies to her in the language she knew as a child. And you know what she was doing? She was singing along: “Yeeeahhhh…. Naaaaah…..” And as she sang along with her son, I know she was young and beautiful once more. She was in no prison and under no slavery, neither of sin nor of body. She was, in her mind, a little girl again where all was new and all was good. And she was singing at the top of her lungs to her Father in heaven.”
So the question begs to be asked, “Have you honored your father and mother?” When they get old, will you remember them? When they have no hair or teeth; when they’ve lost their beauty and mostly smell; when they cannot control their tears, will you come? With tenderness, conviction and strength, will you sing the songs that your parents knew in their childhood? Will you sing for them so that they may be honorable again? Will you sing?
Sing for someone today.