We went to visit my Dad yesterday.
My Dad has Parkinson's.
We were only there for a few hours, but the heaviness of it all left me feeling emotionally drained...altho it's nothing compared to what his wife feels on a regular and daily basis.
Friday was my Dad and Clara's 16th wedding anniversary. It went unacknowledged by my Dad. He didn't know. And, even when he was told...he still didn't understand.
This is something that he would normally never, ever do...forget an important date or event like that. He always wanted Clara to feel special and honored.
Last year, or maybe it was two years ago, I wrote about the things Parkinson's had taken from my Dad...like, his dignity, his health, his independence, his ability to feel like the leader in his home. I remember writing about the things Parkinson's HAD NOT taken...about how his faith was still so strong, and how he was confident of God's hand in his life. I wrote about the gentle way he had accepted his health issues, and how, after every visit, his words encouraged and strengthened me.
I love the time I get to spend with him, but it's clear that Parkinson's is taking more and more of him each day. His quick wit? It's gone. Or it was yesterday. And his encouraging words? They have mostly been replaced by strings of sentences that don't make sense. Some of the time, he knows they don't, but he doesn't know how to fix it.
He's still in there, my Dad...his strength, his faith...he just can't express it.
He told a story from when I was a baby. I know it to be true, because I remember him telling it many times in my life. At one point in our day, I picked up Rhodes, and gently swung (is that a word?) him in front of me...back and forth...like my Dad used to do with all of my kids. His face lit up. He said, "hey! I used to do that!"
We see glimpses of him...and then it's gone.
Even in all of this, there is purpose...and he is valuable.
This disease, and the medications you have to take to get through each day, it changes you.
Before Parkinson's, I can't remember a day when my Dad was negative...when he ever said a cross word...to anyone. He was always complimentary and sincere and helpful and content and steadfast and faithful and kind...and the most godly man I've ever known.
He adored my mom.
And, for the last 17 years, he has adored Clara.
He and Clara have been married for 16 years. They fell in love after my Mom died. Both of them had experienced the great loss of a spouse, and, they knew they didn't want to waste a minute of the time they had left. They had probably ten great years (if you don't count that one year when my Dad slipped on water in the garage, and slid across the garage floor into Clara...knocking her down, and breaking her hip), and then a few pretty good years, and now they are having the years that make you dig deep into those wedding vows..."for better, for worse...in sickness, and in health."
You guys...don't waste your days...number them.
There is the potential for good in them, if you are intentional and look for it and make up your mind to act on it. There's the potential to share the Good News, share good experiences, to see good in others, and to use good and kind words.
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. None of us are guaranteed to live a long, healthy life...slipping quietly into Heaven at a ripe, old age, still in command of all of our faculties.
Hide God's word in your hearts. Pound it in there, and pack it down tight...so that, even when you are not in control of things, it is what comes out.
"Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts." (Psalm 90:12)