Pam and I spent the weekend with our parents: Pam with her mother and I with my father. Her father died only a year ago or so, and my mother is gone fifteen years now. Both our parents—vigorous in their old age—have suffered setbacks in the last six months. Pam’s mother is on hospice, and my father needs a wheel chair.
This is a precious time of life. The time is short. We know that. But more—the time is sweet. There is a pureness to the end. All the ten thousand things that used to matter, don’t anymore. What I saw in my father some years ago, Pam is now seeing in her mother. The old lines that had to be policed and protected and enforced are fading away. The old causes of conflict seem irrelevant now as if, How could we have spent years in our silent corners, refusing to speak about that? The old separators are disappearing. It doesn’t much matter anymore how we spend our money or how we raise our kids or whether or not we came home for Christmas that one year.
This is the sweetness that is squeezed inevitably from the shortness.
The thing is, the time is short for all of us. We don’t have to wait until “the end” to find that sweetness, that pureness of life. All we have to do is to let go of old divisions and care more about people than we do about keeping score. Or, we could say, it’s preferring love above all else—more than our carefully honed identity and reputation, more than our rightness (even when we are actually, objectively right!), more than our need for justice and fairness and order and decency and all the other hobgoblins of the mind.
Driving home yesterday I had ten hours to think. If that’s where I’m naturally headed anyway—to a relenting at the end—why not start now?