That’s how my mother opened an April, 1992, entry in her journal.
“I thought my life would be over when Herbert died,” she continued. “But I had many happy years after that.”
She sketched it out: visiting Andy and her family in Appleton. Laughing with Carrie. Traveling with me to Europe, where we “walked – I really walked – from dawn till dusk.”
She mentioned some of the people who remained dear friends of hers even after my dad’s death – people who didn’t require a foursome for friendship. She treasured them especially; as a young widow of just 57, she had experienced the sting of being dropped after six months or a year by people she thought were her friends, simply because she was alone and they were not.
But by 1992, she was wheelchair-bound and living in this nursing home near us. She still appreciated kindnesses and attention, but the good times had clearly run out for her; she felt like a burden, no doubt because I made her feel like one some of the time.
In the Ten Commandments, God gave us two types of directives.
The first four have to do with our relationship with Him. We are to love Him above all, reject idols, refrain from taking His name in vain and keep the Sabbath holy – that is, separate.
The last six are all about our relationships with each other – refraining from lying, stealing, adultery, murder, and coveting others’ possessions.
But the first of this group – the fifth Commandment – tells us to honor our father and mother. No exceptions: No “unless he is a nasty man” or “unless she becomes too sick to be fun,” or “unless you have something better to do.” I find it fascinating that the Lord put this one first – even before telling us not to murder or commit adultery.
Perhaps it was because He knew that these relationships are the foundation on which our characters are built, and the keys to our attitudes toward authority. Perhaps because they are, in the end, our most fundamental human relationships, foreshadowing in earthly terms our relationships with Him.
I’ll let the theologians figure that out. All I know is that the fifth Commandment made it almost unbearable for me to read my mother’s thoughts during the last chapter of her life.
“How long it takes to die.”
--Excerpted from Heaven Without Her, pages 248-249