This past week marked 20 years since we lost my dad to cancer in his mid-70s. Since then, we also recently lost my mother-in-law in her mid-60s due to different medical conditions. On a different note, our family continues to look after my octogenarian mum as well as father-in-law who have different medical needs common in their age group (and they each enjoy different levels of well-being in the twilight of their long lives).
The routine of regular medical checkups and ensuring that our parents have adequate dietary and other material provisions in their lives reminds one of one’s childhood days—when parents went out of their way to ensure that all of us their children (and other dependents) were always well taken care of in all dimensions of our growing lives.
Our parents spared no expense to ensure that we always had adequate food, clothing as well as appropriate medical care. Nothing was too hard or too much for them to do to ensure that we got access to the best available academic opportunities in our time. Quite literally, it is very hard to imagine what our lives would have been if not for the sacrifices and diligence of our parents at the time we were most vulnerable and; therefore, needed so much social, emotional and psychological nurture.
Ironically, we sometimes hear people suggest that parents should never take care of their children with any expectation of returns from any effort they put into raising their wards. While sounding true at face value, the validity of those sentiments has been greatly undermined in my own life both by reason of experience and the scriptures.
While it might be true that parents should simply discharge their parental responsibility, without necessarily looking for any payback as a matter of right, the converse of that is that any child who appreciates the efforts parents put into ensuring that they should have opportunities in life do owe their parents a debt of gratitude. Indeed, the needs of such parents should not always be expected to be financial or material, sometimes all that our parents need is our time and attention (even as they grow older and become more lonely because of the demise of their closest friends and peers due to the natural attrition associated with aging).
It is important to recognise that human relationships thrive on mutuality: in other words, the height or epitome of human joy comes from the realisation of this simple, yet profound, truth that at the end of the day we all need each other. Interdependency, and not independence, is the apex of human living. No one is truly and absolutely and independent person.
And yes, no one should perpetually be dependent upon others (when that happens it is a result of something being out of order, whether medically or otherwise). However, when life works the way it should, everyone is going to need someone at some stage in their life.
One should, therefore, consider it a great privilege when God gives you the rare opportunity to offer love and support to the very people who invested so much of their own emotional energy and material resources into your own personal development.
Personally, there are very few things I have done in my short life which can compare in their value and satisfaction to the joy I have derived from being able to be there for our parents at this stage of their long and productive lives. Coupled with the fact that the whole experience has involved our siblings and their wonderful spouses, it has been a real opportunity to collaborate in something of mutual benefit and value.
In the process, it has been equally delightful to see our children learn to connect with their grandparents and just learn to take care of other people who by reason of age may not be able to do certain basic life activities. In some unique way, you become a double parent in that peculiar moment: to your parents as well as your own children.
When one can see three different generations working together and supporting each other through the journey of life, it provides a small microcosm of what this journey on this planet The Lord bestowed to mankind is meant to be: a sharing of time, space and resources for the common good and wellbeing of all with whom our paths might cross on our earthly sojourn.