when duty calls

we are born, we grow up, we die – that is the premise of life.

But these days, the dying bit is being delayed by us humans, in the western world at least. The advancement of medical technology has meant we can now live much longer than the three score years and ten allotted to us by God.

In days of yore, people would be lucky to reach their seventieth birthday, but now people are living into their eighties and nineties, with a little bit of help from our medical friends.

The dilemma now is: who should take responsibility to care for the very elderly? It seems the ‘burden’ has been laid at the feet of their fifties plus children.

Take my dad for instance. He is now 93, wheelchair bound and living in a nursing home. Twice now he has been kept alive through medical intervention and his heart is well regulated with a pacemaker.

While the primary carers for my father are the staff at the nursing home who provide for his immediate needs of feeding, toileting, showering, &c, I have the responsibility of making sure his finances are kept in order and his extra requirements are met, like taking him fresh fruit and other tasty morsels a couple of times a week.

My sister also takes her share of the responsibility by giving him manicures and haircuts. And between us, we make sure Dad has his regular dose of fish and chips which makes his life worth living.

I recently read The Weekend Australian article ‘When duty calls’ about people in their fifties caring for elderly parents. The article cited an American broadcaster, Sandra Tsing Loh, who was heard to scream, ‘I want my father to die.’ There were other anecdotes about children, mainly daughters, who cared for their elderly parents.

Most did not consider it to be a burden, but a responsibility. Some like Loh resented having to care for their parents, especially if the relationship with the parent had been strained in earlier years.

If we want to be part of the twenty first century and all it entails, then taking care of elderly relatives, by default, will be part of the deal. And this situation will no doubt continue until I become ‘elderly’ and my children are fifty something.

Our God, when he gave us the ten commandments, dealt with this issue: Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20

Lots more can be said of this commandment. Suffice to say, however, our days in the land have indeed become long.


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I am a Christian and my purpose in life is to give honour to the Lord Jesus Christ in all I do and say.

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