Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Losing parents at a young age. Growth through adversity. The big picture of life.

At the gas pump today a friendly stranger struck up a conversation. This person was waiting for me to finish washing my windows so he could use the squeegee sponge thingamajig next. He said, “nice car” to which I thanked him and told him I’d bought it from my mom when she became ill and was no longer able to drive. He said it might be good for 300,000 miles if I took good care of it. I said, “I hope so!” Then he asked if she was still living. I told him no, she passed away a little over a year ago. He told me his mom died when he was only 21 and that it had made a big impact on his life. It was time to move on, so I didn’t find out what he meant by that. I left with thoughts about how each of us never knows when we will lose someone we love. Catastrophes such as the violent tragedy in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, the events of 9/11, war, car accidents; natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes; unexpected illnesses of children, young and elderly; and the inevitable death by old-age cause heart-breaking losses.

I began to consider my parents lives. When she was still a part of my life, my mom helped me record our genealogy information on a family tree chart I designed. Both of my grandmothers lived long lives, but I cannot say the same for my grandfathers. My mother’s father died from illness when she was only 17. My father was only 15 when he lost his father—a farmer struck by lightening while working in the field with two sons and his horses. My father’s and his brother’s lives were spared. I don’t like to imagine how hard it was to lose their pa that way and for their younger brother, sister and ma who were just a short distance away in their home. When anyone says the chances of being struck by lightening are slim to none, I differ, based on my own family history.

Not everyone will die of old age. It’s important to consider this as we live our lives. Life is precious. The family and friends we have are blessings. I can clearly see the peace, love and comfort of God shine through the lives of so many faithful people as they’ve touched my life when I’ve shared a trouble or sadness with them. Both of my grandmothers and their children (my parents, aunts and uncles) surely received loving kindness, sympathy, comfort and encouragement from their Christian friends and relatives when they suffered the loss of their husbands/fathers. I am learning that tragedies of all types—whether it be the loss of life or any kind of failure and suffering—has a higher purpose: to bring us closer to God and share His love as we serve Him by bearing each other’s burdens.

I wonder, since both of my parents each lost their father at a young age, was this common experience something that may have drawn them to each other? It certainly seems like more than a simple coincidence. The compassion they had learned from all of the people who surrounded them during their losses was now a part of their own character. This was something that they truly understood about each other. This love of God is what they built their marriage upon for 58 years until death parted them. How thankful I am that this love and eternal peace is what they shared with me. Now, through the gift of faith—by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—they are united with God and all who share that faith—their loved ones who went before them and eventually with all who will meet them some day in eternity where there is no more pain and sorrow.

The fact that both of my grandma’s were named Ida just might be a coincidence, however, what comes next—following their losses—was different for each. My fraternal grandma never remarried. She was 47 when her husband died from a natural disaster and she remained a widow for the the next 42 years of her life. My maternal grandma remarried twice. She lost her husband when she was 42; lost her second husband when she was 54; and lost her third husband (the “grandpa” I knew) when she was 74. Our lives certainly are impacted by every event and person that shapes the path we follow. My grandmothers were truly blessings to me and each person within their circles.

In the big picture of life, I am amazed at how intricately woven together I am with other people—like mesh. Beginning from conception, we were physically and emotionally connected to our mothers. When we were born our uniqueness is tied to each person in our immediate family and circle of relatives and friends. As we grow up, our circle expands. With technology, social media or by chance, we have knowledge about lives of people we don’t know personally and are reconnected to those from our past. The size of our circle no longer has bounds. I will never know the story the gentleman at the gas station might have shared, but what he said made me think. We learn from others and are inspired by them. We empathize with them and help when we can. We pray.
For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb. —Psalm 139: 13

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