There are those moments in life when what really matters becomes painfully clear. Most of life is shaped by the time demands of the un-urgent, and the tyranny of the un-important. But there are those rare moments of clarity when you’re confronted by the vast difference between what you think matters, and what really matters. As time etches deeper lines into your face, the more life can, with all of its pleasures and pains, etch deeper clarity into your soul.
My moment of clarity happened when I finally slowed down long enough to visit my mom and dad. For thirty years my mom endured the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Every disease is cruel in its own way. Parkinson’s “special” cruelty is the way it slowly drains away your range of movement, your vitality, and your speech one painful day at a time. It was hard for mom, and for all of us, to watch the body of a beautiful ballet dancer slowly reduced into a convulsing shell over time. The golden years of mom and dad’s marriage could have been spent pursuing new adventures together, instead of enduring one physical decline after another that stole just a little more freedom with every passing day.
Fifty-five years earlier mom and dad committed to love each other “in sickness and in health until we are parted by death.” They meant those words on day one of their marriage without knowing what it really meant. They meant those words all the more now, even though they now knew it meant one was required to do a lot of giving without much receiving, and the other was now required to do a lot of receiving without much ability to give anymore. Nobody would intentionally sign up for this kind of life, but they had committed themselves to each other for life.