I read an old Yiddish saying on Twitter today that said, “Old age, to the unlearned, is winter; to the learned, it’s harvest time.” That sounds really noble and I agree that is how it should be. The problem is, I just left a nursing home. I went to visit one of the most gentle, godly women I know; and I have known her for nearly my entire life. As a younger lady, she worked for the YMCA. My memories of her include retreats at Camp Ocoee and volleyball and softball games. She has raised 5 superb children who love her very much and are productive in their respective walks of life. Nobody would dispute the value of her well-lived life. The problem is today. Today, she was sitting in a chair, alone in her room. She lost her husband of many years just last year; her hearing left her a bit earlier. For the first 5 or 6 minutes I was there with her, she endured a coughing fit and couldn’t speak to me for choking. Even when that subsided, she couldn’t understand much of what I said back to her because of her hearing loss. She eats very little. In fact, when I placed my hand on her shoulder to pray with her, it felt like nothing but bones. Two or three times I choked back tears, for her, for her kids… for me. As you probably know, nursing homes bring us face to face with our futures. So how do we deal with that? My first reaction is to hate sin. Adam and Eve were created to live forever in perfect health. They were to never know what the pain of loss felt like, or the fear of aging and death. Angina and shortness of breath were terms they should have never encountered. Then sin entered their lives and with it came the unwelcome partners sickness, aging, and death. These morbid three stooges became the destinies of each of us. Our loving Father never wanted us to experience pain or death, but love can only be true when there is a freedom to choose not to return it. I began to think about how much it must make our Heavenly Father’s heart ache to see this child he loves so much have to live like this. Yet, in this winter of her life, I began to see the signs of the coming spring. First of all, she asked me to get her checkbook from her drawer so that she could pay her tithes. Then she began to smile as we talked about her kids, her sister, and our church… and I saw something in her eyes! Suddenly, this Yiddish proverb began to make sense to me. The harvest that it talked about was her harvest. The kernels of grain are ripe – and she knows it. The loving Farmer comes and checks them each day to make sure that the timing will be exactly right. In the meantime, after a lifetime of faithfulness, she is going to finish in style. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul put it this way, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” The music is reaching its climactic moments, but she won’t leave the dance floor until the last note is played. Lord, let me finish my dance with half as much style.
(This was written for Clara Durgin during her last few days on earth)