Are you ready? This week, not un-typically, I said those three words (or they were said to me) what feels like a million times. Sometimes, one word said with the right inflection is enough to convey the same thing. “Ready?” Are you ready to go? Are you ready to play? Are you ready for class? Are you ready for dinner? Are you ready for bed? etc. etc. etc. Think about how many times you said it already today?
It’s as if we’re in a constant state of “getting ready” for something. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that innocuous phrase. Because try as I might… for some things, some important things, I wonder if I’ll ever be ready.
On the road again
This week I’m traveling to State College, Pennsylvania better known as Happy Valley and my childhood home. Lucky for me, my sweet parents and my three siblings and most of their families all still live there. And, YES, I am ready for a long overdue visit. Not everyone will be in town, but that’s ok as my priority is to spend time with Mother and Daddy who are the epitome of “being ready.”
My daddy, ninety this June, and mother, both with advanced Parkinsons, have health challenges that plague them daily. It is hard and getting harder to live so far away.
Thank God for siblings
I’m thankful for each of my siblings and their support of my parents, but my sister Diana, with five kids each with busy schedules, takes on the lion share. Both mother and daddy had appointments out of town and the chaffering, decision making and complicated logistics, fell to Diana. Things didn’t go smoothly. The details aren’t important and not my story to tell. But as the flurry of texts went back and forth among us siblings I felt so powerless and NOT ready for things to worsen.
When Mom and Dad got home I felt relief as things quieted. Nothing is “fixed” but the crisis has subsided.
Ready or not…
Later that evening, while updating Doug on my parents’ state, tears came. He responded with assured confidence. But how can he know? He can’t know! And therein lies the rub. No one can know the time or the hour. That’s it. That is what is so upsetting. I can’t adequately “be ready” because I can’t know. There is the sad reality that my parents day of victory is coming. And I don’t get any special advanced warning.
With this timely revelation my mind wandered to how I can make the most of my upcoming visit. Since my propensity to tears comes from the DNA of my sensitive parents, I know better than to try to speak my thoughts to them. Instead I decided to write a no-regret letter — an open letter of what I would want my Mother and Daddy to know.
Dear Mother and Daddy,
1. Well done good and faithful servant. What a gift you have given your family. We don’t have to worry where you’ll spend eternity. Because your faith is so evident, we are unburdened. From the most important of all vantage points, you are both ready! Mother, I remember when you were planning for a move to assisted living you told me that your highest priority was to not be a burden to your children. You’ve achieved that in more ways than you realize.
2. Your influence will carry on, but your “work” is done. The lessons that you’ve instilled in each of us are many. The indelible mark you’ve made on State College, reverberates. As each of us, Doug, Debbie, David and Diana, “remember our name” as you drilled into us, it boomerangs back to you. I recall you speaking of your greatest desire that your kids get along. Just look! It is remarkable. Four strong willed, independent, accomplished adults love each other. Mother and Daddy, you are both irreplaceable, but know this… we won’t crumble. We will still be a family. And the credit for that, goes right back to you.
3. Daddy, thank you for loving Mother. Mother, thank you for loving Daddy. You modeled what marriage should look like. Do you have any idea what security it gives a kid when she sees two parents that love each other as you both have?
4. Mother, thank you for being such an amazing mother-in-law. Everyone seems to have a mother-in-law story… Not so in our family. In fact, I joke to Doug all the time that my mother loves him more than she loves me. What mother of the bride takes time to put together a thick photo album full of history to welcome a new husband to the clan? Daddy, you have been an amazing father-in-law too. Doug feels so fortunate to be adopted into our family and especially to have a loving interested father that he missed out on growing up.
5. Thank you for your devotion to your grandkids. Mother I love seeing your “wall of fame” where you proudly display a portrait of each of your 14 grandkids. I admire how you both take time to know each one of them, their interests, their successes and their struggles. I am amazed at your dedication to pray for each one of them daily. And when one of them is hurting…you both step up in ways that take my breath away.
5. Right Priorities. It seems so obvious now, but how you have spent your time and resources is a reflection of your right priorities. Whenever I visit State College, one of my greatest privileges is to hear what people say about you. You are loved, respected and admired. People I’ve never met before tell me of your generosity and your kindness– the postal clerk, the waitress at the waffle shop, the worker at foxdale where you live. Why should it surprise me? Every time we talk on the phone inevitably, the conversation turns back to me. In any measure that matters, you have succeeded.
6. I am proud and humbled to be your daughter. I feel so loved. If I can leave even a fraction of your legacy to my children, I too will have succeeded. I love you, Daddy. I love you Mother. I will never be ready.
Much love, Deborah Lynn, your favorite. 🙂
P.S. While I may never be ready… it isn’t up to me. And I trust Him. His plan is perfect. He will take care of me in your absence should you go first. He’ll also be fully present and excited to welcome you and will have prepared a place for you — a pain-free place where there is no Parkinsons, no Alzheimers, no cancer, no pain. Word has it that your new digs will be spectacular.
This no-regret letter while easy and helpful to write, has not improved my readiness to accept my parents inevitable departure from this life. But the exercise has opened my eyes and caused me to consider my own numbered days. After all life rarely happens in a predictable manner. Whose to say that my dad at ninety won’t outlive all of us.
Psalm 90:12 says 12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom
In Hebrew, “teach us to number our days” means that the Lord knows the precise number of days that we’ll have in this life.
What if you could know?
Would you change anything if you could know the day of your death? Many people avoid thinking about it. Admittedly, it may seem far away or maybe impractical or morbid even. But life is fragile. Tragedy strikes everyday. And to not be ready is the biggest tragedy of all.
Practically speaking, if tonight was the night… I wouldn’t have stopped at Trader Joes and filled the frig. And frankly I wouldn’t give a thought for what I should fix for dinner. But also, more seriously, I would have been kinder to the Prius driver who took my parking spot. I’d be more thoughtful with how I spend my precious moments. I’d be making some important phone calls and having some meaningful conversations. Only the Lord knows the day and the hour. But we have a responsibility to be ready.
Matthew 25:13 says… Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The Litmus Test
What if Jesus was coming back in thirty minutes? THIRTY MINUTES. If you react as the apostle John did, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Great. But what if, on the other hand, you panic. Yikes. Thirty minutes. I’m not ready. I have some repenting to do! Don’t wait… do it now. You can’t know the day or the hour. Get yourself ready and right with Him.
Thankfully, He has made a way that we can have complete assurance. We are promised that if we believe in Jesus we’ll enjoy eternal life. As Jesus states in John 14:2, My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
If you know Christ, passing from this world is a day of victory — not the end but the beginning. Like is true for my parents, if you walk daily with Jesus and know Jesus you’ll be a little homesick for Heaven. Are you ready?