My Mom and Dad are incredible people, but I have to believe that the young Roger and Amy Lewis probably would not have signed up for the marital “adventure” of debilitating disease. But whether they liked it or not disease found them, and here they were – together. The “love” they thought they had for each other fifty-five years earlier had now grown into a deeper, more profound love that had been refined in the crucible of shared suffering. By nature my Dad liked being busy, active, ever engaged in helping others. Of course he loved helping Mom, but to help at this level every day without a break? Sacrifice. Mom enjoyed life, enjoyed trying everything; baking, sewing, playing piano. Even though she’d given up dance long ago, she still had a nature that felt more comfortable dancing her way through life. She preferred helping others, but to receive help all day every day without any capacity to help in return? The incessant need to receive actually became a sacrifice for her. Neither of them were in a comfortable place when I came to see them. I wasn’t in a comfortable place as I visited. I knew Mom was drawing close to the end of her fight with Parkinson’s. I was dealing with my own middle-aged struggle to re-assess what success really was as I faced the discouragement and disillusionment of not achieving my previous definition of success.
I was standing in the kitchen talking with my Dad when I entered into an uncomfortable moment, but a moment dripping with potential – the potential to see what really matters when there is only an audience of one. As Dad and I talked, Mom feebly called out in a barely audible voice from her chair. Dad walked over and asked, “What is it Amy? What do you need?” All I could hear from my Mom were a few jumbled moans. Dad however heard a very specific request. I had no idea how he interpreted anything specific from the frail moans coming from my Mom’s lips, but he knew. Dad went into the kitchen, grabbed a wash cloth, wet it with cool water and then returned to Mom’s chair. That’s when I saw a most beautiful picture! Dad put the wash cloth on my Mom’s face to soothe and refresh her. Mom could not say “thanks,” could not lift her arms to hug my Dad or even touch him. All Mom could do was tip her head back and humbly accept the gift of Dad’s tenderness. She couldn’t give him anything in return. The only thing she could do was receive; quietly, humbly, and without trying desperately to give something back in return.
A tear began to travel down my cheek as I watched this quiet and beautiful moment. Then, it dawned on me, “This moment is the fullest picture of grace. It isn’t just the picture of the benevolent one doing all the giving. It’s also the picture of the empty one humbly receiving without trying to repay what they have no capacity to repay.” It further dawned on me that the full beauty of God’s grace is not just the unmerited kindness He gives us, but also the beauty of accepting His kindness humbly without any attempt to repay Him what we could never repay anyway. In that moment, my Mom and Dad depicted the power, and beauty of real love and grace.
Mom has now gone home to be with Jesus, but Dad is still with me. So I enter into a conversation with my father who has taught me so much and shown me what grace actually is. So Dad let me ask you, what really matters? I want to know what you’ve learned as you’ve walked with God and aged gracefully.