I have spent my day traveling by car to the heart of South Carolina where my parents are now living, having moved to an “Assisted Living” Center recently. I have a brother nearby. “Going home” to South Carolina has become a sort of barometer of sorts for me in the past 20 years (it’s how long I’ve been gone). There have been vacations, funerals, weddings, graduations – all the events that mark the passage of time in a family. As the past few years have gone by the visits have become more “medical” or “emergency” in nature as my parents have entered their 80’s and age has its impact.
I stood around in a parking lot tonight talking with my older brother, both of us grappling with the fact that our parents are not that much older than we are and that their health and fate is likely our own. It’s just one of life’s signposts. Nothing shocking or different than you thought all your life – except that some events make you realize that it’s later than you think.
I can recall the same feeling at a number of points in my life. The birth of a first child (and I could go on for a lot more).
The Scriptures, particularly in the “Wisdom” literature are very frank about the phenomenon of human life. It is fragile, and, on this earth, it is finite. It is strange, and probably a modern thing, that we are surprised by just how fragile and short life is. We live a very protected existence in most reaches of our culture. Most people that I know have never seen anyone actually die, nor have they seen anyone actually get born. The two things we must all do, and most people have never witnessed either. That is strange.
This strangeness probably means that we have less appreciation of the full enormity of our salvation. No one appreciates health like a man who has been very sick. We have been very sick (mortally wounded) and yet have been promised eternal life. I am certain that I do not fully appreciate what that means – but as each signpost goes by I become yet more interested.
The fragility of life makes it yet more precious – it’s finitude makes the gift that awaits us yet more unfathomable. Glory to God for all things.