My friend was in tears. Like many baby boomers, she was feeling overwhelmed with responsibility for her parents and concern about the issues facing them in their advancing years.
Certainly, it's natural to care and love deeply, but this doesn't need to include constant worry or dreaded dutifulness. Being tenderly alert to a parent may call upon our fathering and mothering qualities, but we don't need to think of ourselves as the parents. The relationship can show a deeper respect, and thoughtfulness for each other's continued progress.
When caring for an older family member, or a friend, prayer is a big help. It enables us to look beyond age, decline, or incapacity for identity that isn't limited but that is whole and indestructible and from God.
Having been a professional care-giver helped me see these individuals as wholly dependent on God, their Father-Mother, for their dignity, freedom, and progress. Regardless of age, each one can receive God's intelligent and tender messages that restore, enliven, and heal.
This statement from the Bible provides a refreshing view: "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age" (Ps. 92:13-14). What a beautiful promise that this productivity continues as we know ourselves and others as firmly established in God. It enables us to trust each one to God's plan and to let go of our sometimes well-intentioned but constricting plans.
Maintaining this spiritual view sometimes takes persistence when we're troubled about a parent's well-being. A few summers ago, I was helping my mom move out of her house. She lived alone, and I had lots of concerns.
Moving out of her house felt disruptive to her, but it seemed like the best solution. I found myself constantly trying to make decisions for her, even before she had the opportunity to think through something. Even through these challenges, I heard God speak to me this way: "Hasn't your mom been cared for up to this point?" The answer was always an obvious "yes."
At one point, I urged her to move into an independent living facility, because I wanted everything to be in place when I left. She reluctantly agreed. I felt like the hours of agonizing were over. At the same time, I had glimmers that God, Mind, doesn't push, but gently makes known His good purpose to each one. As our Father-Mother, He shows us the when, how, where, and why of that purpose. My mom had the right to hear and follow with highest integrity whatever God was communicating to her. I began to feel at peace, letting go of wanting to see things go my way.
No sooner was I home than my mom told me she had found another place to live, and she wasn't going to move into the independent living facility. She told me that she just didn't feel ready for a place like that. I was much more prepared to hear her new plans, and even found myself smiling at all my fretting.
Truly respecting the guidance she was feeling demanded that I step off the path of my planning, speculating, and manipulating even in the guise of being a dutiful daughter.
This doesn't mean that my mom still doesn't have hurdles and that I still don't have to reach out to God, but my prayer has enabled me to listen with more understanding and less opinion. If there are worthy suggestions I can offer, it's much easier to do so now without feeling that they have to be followed.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness" (pg. 246). Resting in this promise and witnessing its fulfillment can wipe away anyone's tears of concern.
For he shall give his angels
charge over thee, to keep thee
in all thy ways.