Betty J. Slade
One of the greatest joys as a parent is when all our children "come home." Cars unpacked and extra place settings added to the table, it's Sunday night and we eagerly await family dinner. There is a lot of laughter and stories to tell. At one point in the evening, our children decided to talk about what they were going to do with my Sweet Al and I when we became too old to help ourselves and beyond.
The night was filled with wisecracks and jokes as four adult children and two sons-in-law discussed how they would disperse of our things, even our ashes. Al and I sat quietly listening.
I felt like saying, "I'm sorry, did I just roll my eyes out loud? If you want to know what we think, you can always ask. Don't we have a say?" I knew better than to verbalize my thoughts. After all, my Sweet Al and I had turned our children's vacation into a time for cleaning out the house and garages, manning a garage sale, then taking a trip to the dump.
Sweet Al made a profound statement, "When we're gone, we won't have anything to say about any of it anyway." If I didn't have the promise of God in my heart and see the bigger picture, the table conversation would have been sad and morbid. My children found the discussion humorous, but thankfully, they were kind, but transparent.
One of our daughters started off the conversation. "Since we are all here, let's discuss what we are going to do with you and all of your stuff. We need to make decisions while we are all together."
Our son said, "My job will be to empty the garages and haul everything away. Once things are gone, I will feel like I have achieved my purpose as your son."
One of our sons-in-law said, "I'll just back the trailer up to the garage door and I'll make a quick run to the dump."
Then one of my daughters chimed in and said to my Sweet Al, "You know, when you go, Whiskey has to go with you."
They were talking about our stuff and our lives. Have we lost control of who we are and what we own? Does anyone care how all this talk makes us feel?
We've lived productive lives and made choices for ourselves. Now, life's choices are decided for us. Fortunately, we have a loving family who only has our best interest in mind, even if the delivery of the dialogue was tongue-in-cheek.
The next morning, my Sweet Al said to me, "If they shoot Whiskey, they might as well shoot me." The sad look in his eyes made me realize how the prior evening's humorous talk was hard on him.
I reassured him, "No one is going to shoot your dog. I wouldn't let that happen. And for all the things I've said and thought over the years, not even I would harm a hair on that loyal dog's coat."
Then I started thinking about my own prized possessions, my artwork. Would I want someone to just do away with my paintings? Do you know how much time, effort and passion goes into every stroke of the brush?
My Sweet Al and I continued talking about the conversation from the night before. I said, "Honey, only you and I understand each other and what is important to us. Some stuff we can let go of, but some things we can't. We've walked many miles and shared many precious moments and have many meaningful things around us."
We see ourselves differently than how our children see us. They are seeing us from eyes with their years in front of them, surfacing what they may need to do someday. We are seeing ourselves from eyes that have long lived, loved and appreciated.
I recall a passage in Ecclesiastes 2: "I should leave my labor unto the man that will be after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have proved myself wise under the sun."
Then Solomon continues to write, "To everything there is a season and purpose... A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to keep and a time to throw away. God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has put eternity in our hearts."
Final brushstroke: Some of life's decisions can be very different than what we may have imagined for ourselves. With children, it is all a matter of how one's life transcends into another. Maybe that is why we can lovingly laugh with family through those difficult conversations. Even if it feels like they are ready to "throw Momma from the train." I thank God I have transcendent power in my heart, or I may have to throw them out the door.
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