My friend Matt and I have been talking a lot about our responsibility for the spiritual nurture of our children. “He’s the man!” in the photo. He is also reading my book, which of course focuses on the message of how to raise children who will find hope and be love in any and all circumstances.
Matt’s starting point in our conversations was his feeling of being inadequate when it came to this most important work. So, he began pondering and praying.
Last night I asked him, “What’s next?” He told me that he had sent a series of questions to relatives on both sides of his family. Matt is collecting stories of faith; like how they found hope within difficult times in their lives. Matt is collecting the, “Family Stories,” in a notebook so he can turn to them when his children, and he himself, are struggling with life situations or asking difficult questions.
I hope he will share some of these stories with me. It often is a good story that gets me through the day.
OK, Matt just sent me a couple of stories. Let me share a portion of one with you that has already blessed me and could help all of us to courageously and lovingly face the next losses of our lives, and help us to teach our children. This one, from Matt’s mother-in-law is used by permission.
Now, I’d like to share about my dad’s awesome last days with us. He became more prayerful those weeks, after he was diagnosed with cancer…. He was not one say “I love you” to us, but in his last weeks everyone in his life got to hear his weak voice say “I love you”. In fact, his last 2 days with us he kept whispering “I love you” almost every moment he was awake. That was a great last gift from God.
In my growing up years, I sometimes wondered if mom and dad loved each other. They rarely showed affection in front of us kids. But in those last weeks, their marriage became quite beautiful. Before he died, we noticed him become so over-filled with joy. A couple times his eyes opened wide as if he was seeing something amazing and he simply exclaimed “ohhhh”. He seemed overcome with emotion as he said “ohhhh” again. Then with a voice filled with awe he said, “The dance, so beautiful!”
We asked him what he saw, but he weakly said we, “wouldn’t understand”.
Around 3 AM, I looked for some soft music on the radio but had no luck. Soon he became unusually alert and I asked if he would like me to wake mom and he said, “I’d like that”. I woke my dear white-haired mom. There she was in her worn nightgown, well-worn hair net, and sleepy eyes as she sat next to dad’s head. Dad turned to her and said, “you are beautiful, soooooooo beautiful!” Mom just melted…. We put on an old Ann Murray cassette tape of love songs as they just sat and stared into the other’s eyes.
My dad’s name is Gene and the song “Cheer Up Sleepy Jean” played. He laughed. Later, as I watched from the foot of the bed, the last song played, ‘Could I Have this Dance for the Rest of My Life.’ How blessed to witness mom cradle dad’s head in her hands with her cheek against his, as they danced their last dance together! Dad then fell asleep most content and never woke again.
Dad’s last words on earth were to his wife, “You are beautiful, so beautiful!”. I wonder if during those last days dad was given the grace to see mom with the overflowing love that God saw her. And to love each of his children and grandchildren the way God loves each of us.
When we see the world from God’s point of view, It is all about love. Just Love.
How about for you? What’s next for you as you seek to love your children towards faith, hope and love? Maybe they need to learn from you how to pass through valleys of shadows knowing all about Just Love.