Honoring Our Parents - By Ray Wall

James and Aliomae Wall

James and Aliomae Wall

One of the Ten Commandments says “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord our God is giving you.”Deut. 5:16.   

My dad passed away in 2011 and my mom in 2014.  I still really miss them.

This past year in our church small group of six families, we have had five parents pass away and have walked through many of the others moving into assisted living.  Just in the past couple weeks, three other friends have lost a parent.

Why am I going into all this?  It is one of the big things we face in our current stage of life.  It is really hard.  There are so many emotions, before, during and after.  It is really difficult having to take on the role of decision making for your parents.  I’m no expert, but just wanted to share some of my story with you all.

My mom and dad moved closer to my sister and brother in law (Kathy and Wendell) as they got older.  That was a good decision since Denise and I moved so much.  Kathy and Wendell are incredible.  Each year, they took on more and more…. Especially since they lived near them. One of my emotions looking back is feeling guilty that I should have done more.  

A few years after they moved, things were going well.  Dad loved fishing every day at Lake Texoma.  Mom missed her friends but loved being near her family.  Dad had a major heart attack one day at the lake and that’s where I learned things start moving faster (and slower) as our parents age.

Dad totally changed. He spent much of the next few years in his recliner.  This happened fast for a man that I had grown up watching carry two jobs most of his life. I’m not sure he ever made much money in his second job as a carpenter, but he was always there to help his friends, widows and those struggling with something around their house.

I vividly remember one specific day a few years after his heart attack. That day we were all in the doctor’s office and the doctor told my dad that he could not do much more for him and if he did, my dad would probably be in and out of the hospital a lot.  My dad elected to go on hospice.  That was tough for all of us, but I gained a great respect for hospice. They worked to keep him comfortable and helped us to better enjoy… or at least to be able to focus on spending better time with him.

About a month later, Denise and I showed up for Christmas and were met by my sister saying something was wrong with mom.  It turned out that my mom had fallen and hit her head caring for my dad.  Kathy and Wendell took her to the nearby hospital who rushed her to Oklahoma City due to bleeding on the brain.

Dad died on Christmas Eve. Denise and I still consider it an honor to be able to spend those last few days with him.  Once again, the hospice folks came and took care of a lot of things.  That afternoon, we headed to Oklahoma City and spent Christmas with our family in the ICU waiting room.  It was hard, but one of the most special memories I have.

Mom made it to dad’s funeral, but I’m not sure she remembered.  She had lived her life caring for people also.  My oldest sister (Mary Ruth) died of cancer at the age of 18 and from then on, my mom became the person everyone wanted with them when they were sick.  She had an incredible gift of comforting the sick and dying.  Now the tables turned, and she was the one who needed help.  

She tried living alone but ended up moving in with Kathy and Wendell.  She enjoyed the time with them but continued to decline to where it was more than they could do.  We found a nursing facility near Kathy and Wendell and also hired a lady to stay with mom, which was a really good decision, but really, really hard.  In a conversation with Kathy just a few weeks ago, she broke down and said, “I wouldn’t have done that if we could have managed otherwise.”  Kathy and Wendell did everything humanly possible to love and honor mom and dad, but she still expressed guilt.  I think this must come with the territory.  We may never feel like we do enough for our parents.

Mom died in May of 2014. She and dad were both 88 when they passed away.  As I write this, it still hurts that they are gone, but I am so thankful for their incredible legacy.  They taught me so much in life and death.  

Honor your father and mother. I know that this does not just apply while living with them when we are young, but for our whole life. It’s really hard as the tables turn and we (the children) become the caretaker for our parents and this might be where “honoring” them really gets real. However, in the end, we will never regret honoring them, especially after the are gone.