Reflections – Have You Watch Them Sleep?

Reflections – Have You Watch Them Sleep?

The Sunday Star (Malaysian newspaper), 2 March 2008

Have you watched them sleep? By Shakunthala Devi

I received a message from my Friendster account the other day. It was one of those forwarded messages, the type I would usually scan briefly before hitting “delete”. But this message, written in Bahasa Malaysia, started with a simple question that caught my attention. A rough translation of it goes like this:

“Have you ever watched your parents while they sleep? Your father’s body, once big and strong, but now, the big is withered and the strong is weaker. Wisps of grey peek out from his hair, wrinkles now “scar” his forehead and face. “This man works hard every day and would sacrifice anything to make sure his family is provided for and his children get the best education possible. “Or how about your mother, whose soft hands once cuddled and held you close when you were a baby? Now, those hands are dry and rough, bearing evidence of the challenges she faced just for us. “This woman takes care of our daily needs, constantly nagging and scolding us because of her love for us. But sadly, we often misconstrue her love as control and unfairness.”

I have never thought of watching my parents while they slept. “I’ve watched my cousins sleep when they were babies, all round and cuddly and sweet smelling. But watch my parents? No way!  But after reading this message, I realised that there were indeed much truth in it. In fact, my parents do not have to be asleep for me to realise that they have aged. Just looking at my mother walk tells me that her legs are not as strong as they were before. Or hearing her ask me for help with that flowerpot in the garden, the one she used to be able to push and drag around the garden without my help. Or watching my dad lift a 10kg bag of rice. I can easily carry that bag now. I am young. But to him, it is a struggle. What do all these observations tell me? Yes, my parents have aged. They are ageing just as I am ageing. But as I age towards my best years and become stronger, they in turn are becoming weaker. They were once the caregivers and I the receiver. In time, I know our roles will reverse. Like it or not, want it or not, this is life. I supposed I have always subconsciously thought that my parents would always be with me, never growing old. It took that message to make me realise that my parents are not immortal. That they, too, will one day leave the world and me. Until then, I will make good use of our time together. By the way, I am forwarding this message to all my family and friends to remind them to appreciate what they have now. It will not last.

“I have never thought of watching my parents while they slept.”

A simple observation, a simple remark; but what a powerful message, a strong rebuke and a humbling reminder for us who are children (no matter how old we are) who still have both or a parent with us. For some, it could be a wake-up call to assess our own relationship (lack of it) with our parent(s).

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Let us never give up loving, caring, being attentive and praying for our parent(s), our elderly parent(s).

  • Embrace our parents out of reverence for God and His commandment – To love and honour our parents that our days may be well. 
  • Seek healing, reconciliation and restoration where there have been deep hurts, pain, un-forgiveness from broken and bitter memories and unresolved issues. Create new memories that come through healing and restoration – the hearts of the children are turned to their parents and the hearts of the parents to their children.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

  • Let peace abound within the four walls of every home and in every conversation.
  • Let every intention be guided by God’s love, humility and gentleness, and with patience, bearing with one another in love. May we remember God’s mercy and goodness concerning us.

Isaiah 46: 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

  • Let salvation be upon our parents and relatives (and those whom we know). May they find purpose, peace, hope and joy (even in their old age).
  • Let us rise above any form of inconvenience to serve our elderly parents unconditionally. May our parents testify, “Even in my old age, I have not seen a day the Lord has abandoned me.” “I am blessed.”
  • Let kindness, mercy and compassion direct and grace our words and deeds. Let us build new memories with and for our parents. Let us break the so called “generation gap” (man-made) and be the “bridge” (God-made) for our parents as they go through their golden years and challenges (health and old age).

There is no greater gift and joy than to invest our days, our lives with our parents, and helping them age gracefully.