While recently reading through Genesis, I was struck by the fact that so many people mourned the death of Jacob. A huge caravan of people went with Joseph to bury his father. This included many Egyptians and people who were not part of the family. Many likely went because of Joseph’s position in Egypt. Despite this fact, I find the outpouring of emotion and loss something that seems foreign to today’s culture. Youth is worshipped as the ideal today not aged wisdom.
The crying and remorse over this one man’s passing caused such a stir that onlookers changed the name of the place to reflect the sorrow displayed by the people there. Would this ever happen today?
Modern societies don’t seem to value older people the same way that ancient civilizations did. People almost get discarded into the abyss of our minds and collective conscience. Sure, people will attend a funeral and say a nice word or two about a recently deceased person. But how many of us honestly seek out older people and make time to share life with them. And if we do, what is our reason for doing so? Who goes to nursing homes to have a good time? What does the fact that so many people end up in nursing homes show about our priorities?
Joseph and his brothers seem to have had a bond with their father even as he approached death. Jacob pronounced a blessing and prophetic words onto his sons before he died. Who does this sort of thing any more? I wonder if we even know what we are missing.
Writing this causes me to pause and think about Granny, my last grandparent to die. She passed away last year. I had to preach at the funeral. It was tough. We all loved her. But she died in a nursing home. I wish she didn’t have to be there. Her condition required constant supervision and assistance because it was hard for her to do much for herself any more. She had minimal use of her arms and was prone to falling. Her mind remained sharp to the end even though her body frequently failed her. We tried to be there as much as possible. But part of me wonders if we did enough?
Months before she died, I tried to ask her about so many things in her life, our family, great moments in history, little things that nobody else would know, etc. I never got this information chronicled the way I would have liked to do. Now, some information will have died with her. This simple truth reminds me of the fact that we all have a story. And if we don’t tell it so that others will remember it, our legacy can be lost or diluted by time.
Every time I pass by a nursing home, I find myself grappling with questions that are impossible to answer. I saw things while going to see Granny the last three years of her life that make it hard for me to visit nursing homes. I saw incredible acts of love and loyalty. I saw signs of neglect and abandonement. I witnessed times of great joy and helplessness. Each face showed either the weight of sin or the glory of grace. It will be hard to forget those times. I hope that I never do.