The Children of Tom and Amanda
Why do I feel guilty about anything relative to the care of my parents? When someone does something nice for them, I feel guilty as though I should be doing that for them myself. For example, the nice lady from church who goes over each Sunday evening and spends time with Mom going over the church bulletin and prays with her. Or the couple from my own church who took them out to lunch today. Or every time my busy daughter-in-law runs over to the store for them.
Then there's the overwhelming sense of guilt that had I been a better steward throughout my life, maybe I wouldn't have to work and could be my parents' full time caregiver. Last week I realized after doing our October taxes that we had given more this year than any other year, and despite our comfortable circumstances now, the reminder that had I been a better money manager I might be in a position not to have to work, and my parents' might not have had to do a reverse mortgage to pay for their in-home care--and more importantly, I could be more available to them--and on and on the cycle of guilt goes.
People observe what I do for my parents and think I'm a good, dedicated, loving daughter. But I know what I am and my conscience torments me. Attitude is everything I realize. "What you know in your heart is right to do and you don't do it--it is a sin (Becky's paraphrase)." The sins of omission are my reality.
The only time I don't feel guilty is when my siblings do something for my folks. When one brother drives a long distance to work in their yard clearing years and years of Dad's work away, or the other brother out of love for his Dad takes him to a movie or to a seminar. Or when my sister stops after church now and then and warms up their lunch for them. I suppose that's because we're all doing the best to do our part and all feel the responsibility. And my parents are so blessed to have my twin's wife and my own husband who do so much toward the caretaking and I'm incredibly grateful as well.
Yesterday I left them twice--once in the morning and once at noon. Both times their vulnerability and aloneness overwhelmed me. Dad never got up out of bed during my first visit--but he stirred when he heard me and said brightly, "Hi Sweetheart." Those are the words I will miss more than any when he can no longer speak. And Mom was so completely stressed over holding it all together and what they'll do if their caregiver quits, or what should she do about Dad sleeping so much. All the while she rocks back and forth in her chair as the anxiety increases, anxious and blind.
I left thinking I should go over and sleep there every night--just in case something might happen. I seem to have constant promptings that come into my mind of things I should do to help them--and few I act upon. On my way to or from work each day I talk to Mom on long calls. That is her lifeline--to have long conversations with anyone, really. While she presents one issue after another she's dealing with she says she wishes she didn't have to burden her kids with any of it--she never dreamed she'd be in this position.
So where does that bring me to today? First, I am thinking of the future and how I might be able to fix things so I can be more available to them. Secondly, and more importantly, I am a follower of Jesus and that should change me--guide me--and free me from the guilty feelings and motivate me to do wht I know is right.
Sins of omission? What am I NOT doing that I'm accountable to the Lord for? Between the Lord and me I will no doubt continue to struggle. But will seek His Spirit for guidance, and I will resolve to toss aside the wasted guilt and excuses and do what is right.
"Cheap grace preaches forgiveness without repentance, discipleship without obedience, blessing without persecution, joy without righteousness, results without obedience. In the entire history of the church, has there ever been another generation with so many nominal Christians and so few real (obedient) ones?" (D.A. Carson)
I John 2:3-6: We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The person who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him...This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
It's easy to be "Jesus with skin on" for little ones, but when it comes to elderly parents, it's not so easy--but just as important. So I'm dealing with some misplaced guilt, to be sure, but just as assuredly, I desire to be more available to them, and more obedient to the Lord.