Growing older seems to be taking its toll on my younger, somewhat rebellious, self! Not that I ever was very troublesome in my coming-of-age years (if one excludes a consistent tendency to speak my mind too plainly and my insistence upon having things my way!). Besides, there is no denying that since my days of early motherhood, which were characterised by a strong sense of discipline, as the days go passing by – and they really do go fast when one is on the wrong side of fifty – I am mellowing into a more relaxed and agreeable mother; and more-so, grand-mother. Indeed, my two grand-children can vouch for the fact that I’d sooner raise a smile, rather than chide them, in response to many of their sometimes-not-so-acceptable antics. I’ve become more tolerant of most shortcomings, but one thing which really irks me is lack of respect. Undeniably, many parents who are my peers also feel that they are losing this battle for respect in today’s contemporary society.
I suppose God must have had us parents very much on his heart when he inscribed the fourth commandment on the second tablet of stone. This commandment, which also includes respect towards children and in a more general sense, respect towards authority, is the bridge which links together our love and duty towards God, with our love and duty towards other people. Incidentally, just like God, our parents shared in creating us. Yet, in spite of giving us this great gift of life, as well as all the love that they shower upon us and the sacrifices (and also, inevitably, mistakes!) they make on our behalf, there are times when we are all guilty of not paying enough attention to them – and to their advice – even though we know that they have our best interests at heart.
People who know me – and who also know that both of my parents died at a relatively young age – may claim that it’s easy for me to pontificate on the fourth commandment, but it is precisely this acute sense of bereavement that prompts my reflection upon this subject. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish that I could enjoy my parents’ company for at least one more hour. How I long for an opportunity to seek my father’s sound advice, and watch my mother busy at her sewing machine or toiling over a hot stove! It seems to me as if today, most of us are so overwhelmed by far too much to do, and we barely have any time to dedicate to those who devoted all their time and energy in order that we may have a future.
I read somewhere that ‘ageism’ is a word that has been coined to identify our society’s negative stereo-typing of the elderly. In the past, stemming from the biblical tradition, our elders were mostly identified as possessing a great wisdom. Today, age tends to be identified as being a period of incompetency, as well as being the onset of physical and mental deterioration. To become old in our culture is very often nothing less than a curse. How far we have gone from the biblical view which demands respect for the aged and honour for one’s own parents! Indeed, there are many elderly parents who find themselves in dire need of companionship, and others who are so often denied the help and support they so freely gave to their children.
We are accustomed to writing beautiful tributes to our parents upon their death. These tributes are a powerful testament of honour and connection. But why wait until that sad, irreversible moment to pay tribute to a beloved mother or father? The best gift we can offer our parents is the gift of ourselves, and an active participation in the lives we share with our own spouses and children. So, send flowers for no particular reason, pick up the phone just to catch up, or use a special skill that you possess to meet a particular need which they may have. And always speak kindly of them, using words that bring life. Remember, God has used your parents to make you the person you are today. Be thankful for them and appreciate their worth while you still have the chance. I wish I could!
This article was first published by Times of Malta.