The Future is For the Young
But Should it Be?
My maternal grandfather died when he we was 99 years old. He died a fairly dignified death. For two days he couldn’t breath easily, so he was put on oxygen for his comfort. My aunt and uncle who were caring for him didn’t want to let him go. It’s understandable. In our family he was truly the patriarch and his passing would signal the end of an era, one that had been characterized over its many, often turbulent years, by both joy and sadness – as with any family, I imagine.
For me he was the last link to our “ancient” family story. He had grown up in New York City, visited bars I knew in the West Village, been a caddy at a famous, venerable old golf club (I took up golf late in life and he was thoroughly delighted to have another member of the family as in love with the sport as he had been), spent summer weekends on Long Island. His father was the footman in the city for a wealthy family, he had met my great-grandmother there—she was the upstairs maid. A bit like Downton Abbey, New York style. Years later, my grandfather’s parents shunned the ice of the north for the “newly happening” city in the sun, Miami Beach. In this idyllic setting they built family homes, invested in real estate (which they later sold to the pre-launched Disney World) and bought orange groves. It must have been a dream after New York, the turquoise water, palm trees, brilliant skies. And like the Pied Piper all the family followed my great-grandparents south, to start a new life, to try something fresh. That included my grandfather who came with his young family in the 1940’s. My mother grew up there and we moved back after my parents divorced (we had moved to North Carolina.) All those years my grandfather had worked at his parking concession, living simply, taking care of my grandmother (who passed away 10 years before he did) and saving his money. When he was 99 he didn’t need any assistance, he has saved and planned, he was never a burden to anyone. And then, when he couldn’t breath anymore, my brother whispered in his ear and told him it was ok to go, and he did, taking with him a lifetime worth of memories—triumphs, heartaches, good times, and disappointment.
So often we focus on the young, and we should because they are the future and that is the cycle of life. But I hope we will remember what it says in Exodus 20:12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” You see my grandfather, until the day she died, watched over his mother, my great-grandmother. He honored his parents and God honored him. I believe honoring the elderly, watching over our parents, is a sacred trust. It must be, because it’s the only commandant that carried a direct promise. So as we head into the holiday season if you haven’t told your parents you love them lately, do. If you find that you can’t because of a past hurt, ask God to honor a love and forgiveness in your heart and believe for spiritual reconciliation. Showing kindness to those that have lived a long life has all the power to change your life. I encourage you to try it…