I once read a story where a woman had recently lost her husband. Her four grown daughters, three in which lived in adjacent cities and one flying in for the funeral of her father, were surrounding to comfort their mother and their own broken hearts. When the older sibling and her husband arrived in her childhood home, she was shocked and surprised to find small, white tags on pieces of furniture, pictures, silverware, jewelry, clothes and things of such minuscule value. Each one of these labeled tags had one of her sister’s names etched in ink, already staking claim to what was entitled to them.
During the evening dinner, the mother was quiet, solemn, and racked with sorrow. Completely oblivious to their mother’s needs, the three sisters ate unconsciously aware of their older sibling’s inability to swallow food. The younger of the bunch turned to face toward her sister with a smile, “Did you tag your name on anything?” The older sister, staring in disbelief at the young woman, watched as her husband stood up from the table, walked over to his mother-in-law and placed his hands on her shoulders, “We tag this piece.”
The loss of a spouse is difficult, especially one where you have grown together, loved together, and hoped together.
Baring children, watching them grow, loving every sporting event, cheering alongside one another, proud parents indeed. Standing side-by-side in sorrow or pain as you wait to hear the news of your little one who is sick and needs medical care; sitting together meticulously, eyeing ever bill and savings you’ve spent a lifetime accruing, only then to stand alone at the funeral of the beloved one past while you remain.
The thoughts must circumvent through the mind, “Where am I going to stay?” “How will I be able to afford living without him/her?” “Who will take care of me?”
The pain only deepening when the ones you have loved, cared for, supported and encouraged leave you behind. This may have been the experience of Peter’s mother-in-law. We know nothing about her except she was in his home, sick, and Christ healed her. We can infer Peter had a big heart. He may have been a little rough-around the edges, but he loved this woman enough to take care of her. I love reading the Bible where many opened their arms and homes to their extended family. It inspires me to open my own arms to those God has place in my family as relatives and those closest to me. I am thankful to the Lord for these simple, one-lined Scriptures for these small verses can say so much if we take the time to read between the black print.
This was also the experience of another woman in the Bible named Naomi, but it was the love of daughter-in-law who repudiated to leave the woman she had come to love.
Having lost her husband and sons, two daughter-in-laws hold onto their mother-in-law refusing to leave her. So bitter, saddened and depressed is Naomi she wants her name changed to Mara encompassing the bitter feeling she is experienced, the dark depression of losing all those you have loved. One daughter-in-law profusely declines to leave the woman she has fallen in love with. This maternal figure has been all she has known for some time, her heart loves as if this woman had given birth to her as her own mother. Ruth, loving, kind and generous, rejects and rebuffs her mother’s intentions of walking alone (Ruth 1). She insistently expresses her love and “tags” Naomi as her own entitled piece.
I have known my own mother-in-law for fifteen years now. When I first met Tommy’s family, his grandmother loving known as “Red Hair”, was living with his parents since his grandfather had died eight years prior. Red Hair as passed on at the ripe old age of ninety-one, but I learned a valuable lesson of what dedication, adoration, respect, and true love is all about. See, my in-laws took care of Red Hair for twenty years. She lived with them, ate with them, traveled with them, and relied upon them for medical treatment. Obviously there were times of frustration, irritation, and aggravation, but the love exceeded those nuisances.
After nineteen years of a daughter loving her mother, Red Hair was taken to a hospital the last year of her life. Every day for one year, 365 days, my mother-in-law walked to see her mother. Every day sat and talked with her and the nursing staff. Everyday she walked, cold, rain or shine, she would not leave her mother alone. She had “tagged” Red Hair. Our Father has His own tag upon His precious daughters as well.
God loves the widow.
His Word testifies his own belief in taking care of those who are left behind, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, given him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1Timothy 5:3). “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Sadly today’s generation does not look toward their elderly, parents or grandparents in this way. The words burden, annoyance, disturbance and irritation are the “tags” labeled on these antique pieces. Paul tells Timothy in the last days, children will be disrespectful towards their parents, lovers of themselves, abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, without love, not lovers of good, rash and proud (2 Timothy 3:1-5). I read this list and we all can see how it finger points to our society and culture’s immediate gratification, self seeking, pleasure-only-please world.
I pray I have the ability to take care of all my parents. I pray when one may lose another I tag them, for I choose not to store up “stuff” where rust and moth destroy, but serve as Christ came to serve. I do understand the inability to care for a loved one with medical needs that only a hospital can administer. But if the “burden” of your parents, boils down to a heart issue and not a physical issue, then here lays the problem. My prayer for you is to put yourself in the place of the one alone, of course that requires an act of empathy many choose to ignore. I also pray that when I myself am of age to maybe lose my own spouse, my children will “tag” me instead of lifeless, “stuff” surrounding me.
Let us pray out loud and CONFESS the Word of the Living God; a prayer for our extended family
I want to know love as you. I desire to have a love for all of those you have place in my life and family. Help me to be generous, kind, thoughtful and caring to those in my family. I rebuke any ungratefulness, disobedience, un-forgiveness, or harsh treatment towards them for I do not want to be as the people Paul pointed his finger in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-8). I desire to express all the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
If any of my family is without their spouse, alone and in need, please help to support, encourage, serve and love them. I want to honor my parents so my own life is long to praise your precious name (Exodus 20:12). Your Word says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1Timothy 5:3) If I have the capability and the means to provide, open my heart even more to those who are in need.
Father, if I have family member in the hospital or medical facility, graciously provide the time to see them, love them and remind them how much they are loved; help me to “tag” them as my own and love them as you do. I pray to have the character as Ruth and the love as Peter to open my home, serve and care for my parents. Show me how to honor them even more than I do now. I do know that one day I will be in the same situation; help me teach my own children your Word and precepts for they are good. I pray that I too may experience the same love and generosity from my own family as I express to those who are elderly in mine. Thank you for showing what true love is. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray, amen.
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