- The loss of parents changes everything. Through the grief there comes a transformation, unsmiling and mostly forced. It truly is a new chapter. A new life. A new existence.
Two weeks ago my father lay dying at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa due to the progression of advanced dementia. As we stood by his bed, a nurse came in and spoke with us. “Are you his son?” she asked, “I can see the resemblance.”
Watching my both my parents die in two months affected me greatly, as you can imagine. But something happened that I did not anticipate: a poignant sense of my own mortality. Our parents, more than anyone, are fixed points in our lives. They are always there – and have always been there – like the North Star or the morning sunrise. But with these fixtures in my life now gone, everything seems transitory. Though I have a lot of living to do, someday that will be me, surrounded by my family. I wonder if a nurse will notice the resemblance between me and my sons?
But as I ponder the transient nature of life, something else is happening. Basically, I have acquired many things. Assorted items from my father and mother, various accounts and other assets. Yet in these midst of these acquisitions I find myself less attracted to them. Less interested in stuff. There’s something about holding mortality’s hand that makes material things less appealing.
Perhaps you’ve watched “Hoarders” on television. It is a sad show as people who appear to be mentally ill are compelled to empty their dismally cluttered homes. But do you and I fight the same battles? Even in an economic downturn, many of us have jam-packed closets, cabinets, garages and storage sheds. At my house, we struggle with having more stuff than we actually need.
We seem to be people who have more than we know what to do with. We over-accumulate, over-schedule and overeat. We measure the quality of our lives quantitatively. On the other hand, my father and mother left this life with only their hospital gowns and a bunch of medical bracelets.
I believe in heaven. And I believe that heaven can begin today. We can live now as though heaven is already beginning to unfold – encroaching into the present. A life with a magnificence that surpasses the fullest bank accounts, the fullest homes and the fullest waistlines. When I became a Christian, words from an old hymn spoke volumes to me:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Maybe it’s time I got on my knees…and cleaned out some closets.