Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22 NIV
Listen to your father, and don’t hate your mother. It appears Solomon may have had a bit of a mother issue. Possibly, he was just observing others relating to their parents.
Lately, I’ve been observing grown children dealing with aged parents with dementia. One woman was very close to her mother her whole life. She was not only dependent on her mother as a child, but she sought her help while raising her own children. She called her mother often for recipes, child rearing suggestions, marriage advice, and help to transport children to ball practice.
Her mother was her gyroscope whom she depended on for guidance when her world seemed out of balance. She could always call until her mother developed dementia. She initially felt panic, but gradually, she felt deserted.
Their roles reversed, then she became the provider for her mother. She was burdened with the daily care and the added financial strain. She didn’t despise her mother as Solomon warned, but she did feel resentment. She felt bad because she knew she would eventually lose her mother to death. Through prayer and Bible reading, the daughter, finally, got her bearings and was able to deal with the situation. Once she realized her selfishness, she was able to provide the same loving support for her mother that her mother had provided for her.
Another example is a man whose mother developed dementia. He resented the inconvenience and placed her in a nursing home. He rarely visited and focused on his work, because he felt she was no longer his mother. I don’t suggest that placing someone in a nursing home means we don’t love them. Sometimes, it is the best for the patient and the family. However, this man’s problem wasn’t that he despised his mother; he just no longer cared for what she had become.
Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust in a German concentration camp wrote, “The opposite of love is not to hate. It is indifference.” The man in the example did not hate his mother; he was indifferent to her. Unfortunately, this is a common situation. Frankly, these people aren’t reading this devotional, so I offer no advice.
Another lady I observed was having difficulty dealing with her mother’s diagnosis. She and her mother never had a good relationship. Beginning when she was a teen, they argue. Her mother interfered in her life, even as an adult. It seemed she was always around offering unsolicited advice.
Now her mother is always around—literally. She lives down the hall in her daughter’s home. She stays in her room quietly most of the day, but, in the evening, she begins to roam. She displays the “sundowner” syndrome which is common with Alzheimer’s disease. This mother shadows her daughter as she is trying to prepare the evening meal. She is on her heals constantly and it drives her daughter to angry outbursts. “Sit down, and shut up,” she has yelled at her mother.
She feels very guilty when she loses her temper. In fact, she feels very guilty about her relationship with her mother in general. She regrets all the lost years when she could have been a better daughter; She wonders if it would have made her mother a better mother. Now, she feels, it is too late.
The book of Ecclesiastes states, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” People living in Biblical times had the same type of problems as us; their parents grew old and became a burden to their children. There were no adult day-care facilities or nursing homes. It was the responsibility of the family to care for widows and the elderly.
Likewise, it is our responsibility to care for our parents. That care might be in the home or in a professional facility, but it is our responsibility to continue to love them and not despise them. Even though our parent may have dementia, it is not too late to show them love. Their ability to feel love and kindness will last until almost the end.
© Copyright 2018 Ron Milburn