In Shakespeare’s Richard II, the dying Duke of Lancaster remarked, “Oh but they say the words of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony. Where words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain, for they breathe. . . their words in pain.” Ever since I heard those words many years ago I’ve thought about what it would have been like to witness what Jesus said just before he died.
What did Mary really know when she welcomed her son into the world? How could she have understood both the magnitude of what he would do for the world and what she would lose as he did it? I think every bone in my body would have screamed out, No. Not my child. Not under any circumstances. Take me instead.
We have had the joy and challenge of caring for my mom for half of the past several years since my dad died, as her condition worsened and she needed more personal care. No one prepares you for the day when the tables are turned and the parent becomes like a child needing daily care. Yet God clearly calls us to honor our parents and care for the widows.
“We take care of bodies.”
This was the phrase taught to me in medical school, a reminder to fledgling physicians of the limitations of our specialty. It struck me afresh this summer as I prepared to do one of the most challenging aspects of my job – telling a mother that her baby was dying.
My mother died this past summer after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Almost forty years ago, her diagnosis began a great struggle for me in my faith journey. I remember fervently praying as a young child for the Lord to heal my mother of her disease. It was my almost daily prayer then. I recall that, as the years passed and my mother’s disease slowly progressed, I vacillated between anger and hope.