A few years ago, my dad’s twin brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Ten years before that, my mom died in an accident. All of my grandparents have since passed away, too.
At 37 years old, I think I’m near the older edge of the age spectrum among Boundless readers. But regardless of your age, have you started wondering how long you’ll have your parents around? I want to gently encourage those of you who still have your parents, aunts and uncles, and maybe even your grandparents: Please cherish them.
I know sometimes the generational differences are vast — and frustrating. Sometimes we struggle to speak the same love language. Sometimes the previous generation was less soft and more disciplinarian or rigid in its expectations. Or maybe your parents have baggage that makes it hard to love them. But I think it’s worth trying to reach into their lives and situations to understand them. After all, we only have so many years left with them.
It was only after my mom passed away that my dad and I started to say “I love you” to each other. And it was only after my uncle died that I decided to invest in some of the things my dad loves. For example, he goes to Ethiopia each year with a missions agency, and had asked me multiple times to go with him. After my uncle died it finally hit me: My dad was inviting me into this part of his life. So that year I went, and I really cherish the memory of going with him. It seemed like God was really in that trip and I think it meant a lot to both of us. (For more of that miraculous story you can check out this book.)
There were still areas, however, in which I felt we were finding it hard to connect. At some point he invited me to come back home for an “extended period of time.” I think he was concerned I was struggling in my career or was unmarried and living so far away. But only after prayer and sage advice from some friends did I realize that his invitation home was his way of inviting me into deeper relationship with him.
I went home for a month. We rode bikes and hiked together. We talked while sipping margaritas. We got mad at each other about the same old things we used to, and we apologized and made up. It was all very much worth cherishing.
But if I can, let me speak back to my younger self, and maybe you can apply it to your life if you’re at the stage I was then: I wish I had done that sort of stuff more with my mother and my uncle before they died.
With the time we have left with our parents, maybe there are new ways we can reach out and bridge the generational differences. Maybe there are more ways we can invest some time in something they love. They spent 20 years or more investing in us, for goodness’ sake.
Maybe we can make a concerted effort to speak their love languages and give them more of our time. I’ve learned that when my brothers and I go home, my dad loves it when we do chores for him. That’s one way we can love him in his language. And I put a reminder in my phone to call my dad at least once a week; maybe for some of you it’s just driving over and getting dinner with your parents more often.
Your parents may seem super healthy, and it’s easy to assume they’ll be around for a while. But that’s just another reminder to take the opportunity to love them better now.
Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” So investing in relationship with your parents is not just one slightly older person’s advice. God commands it.
Love on those parents.