Our lives are pretty hectic. Janet and I are on the road a lot and it is easy to neglect important things — things like older parents. My dad is 89 and my mom almost 87. They still live on their own, drive, go to the Baptist "church" every Sunday, and keep pretty busy. I only live 15 minutes away from my childhood home but I get over to visit less than I should.
When God spoke from Mount Sinai and told us what is ultimately important, he said, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Ex 20:12). St. Paul commented, "This is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth'.”
The other day we were visiting my parents and I overheard my mom say she hadn't seen her only sister in over three years — and didn't expect to see her again this side of heaven. I thought for a moment. This is something more important than many things I spend my time doing. My mom came from a divorced family in the 20's and she had only one sister — no cousins, no other relatives — just one sister, a mom, a step dad and a father she never saw. So her sister Lorraine has always been very important to my mom and even now they talk on the phone several hours a week.
I never had the book of Sirach in my Bible until I became a Catholic. Sirach gives some advice and offers a promise about old parents. Scripture says,
Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard.
Whoever glorifies his father will have long life,and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother; he will serve his parents as his masters. Honor your father by word and deed, that a blessing from him may come upon you. For a father’s blessing strengthens the houses of the children, but a mother’s curse uproots their foundations.
Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father, for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you. For a man’s glory comes from honoring his father, and it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother. O son, help your father in his old age,and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him.
For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you; in the day of your affliction it will be remembered in your favor; as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away. (Sirach 3:3-15).
I called my mom and dad and told them to pack their suitcases — "I am driving you to visit your sister." I would have preferred to fly but there's no way I could get dad in a plane — just convincing him to ride so far in the car was a huge job in itself. My mom and her sister were happy to see each other. I took my dad to visit his only remaining sibling from a family of 13. We visited other relatives too.
I would have done this for them anyway — even if promises and warnings were not their to entice. My mom and dad were the best parents in the world. Perfect? Heck no. Neither am I, but they loved us kids, taught us about the Lord, spend every penny and minute for us, so I would do this for them any way.
So here I am sitting in Starbucks in McHenry Illinois using the wireless internet to write this blog and to get the YouTube video uploaded. I will add a link to the YouTube video later when I finish part two. So, stay tuned if you are interested in seeing my old parents reunited with their family. Probably not, I know . . .
. . . but if you have older parents go see them. If you have estranged or neglected family members do something about it. Remember that St. Paul also said,
If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).