What we love affects who we are now, but our intellect allows us to spin that internal reality for an external audience. When we age, that capacity decreases. Our filters breakdown and then dissolve altogether. The people around us are directly exposed to the person our desires have crafted us to be. I am witnessing this first hand as the parents of my generation enter the home stretch of their lives and start to pass. For example, Grandma Peg.

I met Grandma Peg once. We shared five days with extended family on the Oregon Coast four years ago. Not too long after, she finished her race. Grandma Peg loved Jesus, her family, people, and serving with passion and roughly in that order. I say roughly because I think that for most of Grandma Peg’s life those things became deeply intertwined. Her love for Jesus invited her far beyond herself and deeply into the lives of those around her. She loved everyone so well that it was tough to sort those loves apart.

To the end—the very end—people flocked to Grandma Peg, fiercely defended their relationships with her, and felt themselves enriched by her presence. She passed singing, and then finally just listening to, hymns with her son Dan. She carried so much faith and dispensed so much love that I cannot say who was more blessed by that experience, Grandma Peg, Dan, or those of us who hold that scene in our hearts. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

I am also thankful my father’s legacy. Dad spent his life inviting people in; filling them with love, respect, and hope;1 and sending them back out. His love for people and teaching did not create tension with his love for independence. Dad devoted himself to making sure that people choose to be together out of joy not guilt, choose to do the healthy thing out of strength not fear, and had the space to battle through their own challenges rather than suffer forced dependence on well wishing others. Those things stood in clear and powerful opposition to co-dependency, manipulation, and any sense of unhealthy indebtedness. Dad strove to make everyone comfortable, in all circumstances, at all times.

When he was seventy, he took his dog, got in his truck, and drove to his favorite coffee shop. He enjoyed a hazelnut latte, dispensed wisdom and warmth, and died of a heart attack in the bathroom—independence, and for the most part, filters intact.

What about us? If an observer looked at how we spend our time and what we talk about most, what would they conclude about what we love? What stories will people tell about us after we die? Can our kids look forward to a positive, cheerful, giving…dying parent who fills up the people around them even while they are in their home stretch? Or will negativity, selfishness, and desire for control leave them with a parent they struggle to love while they make their final bitter lap around the sun?

While you ponder, consider Thomas Merton’s perspective for the living:

“We are what we love. If we love God, in whose image we were created, we discover ourselves in him and we cannot help being happy: we have already achieved something of the fullness of being for which we were destined in our creation. If we love everything else but God, we contradict the image born in our very essence, and we cannot help being unhappy, because we are a living caricature of what we are meant to be.”2

May there be peace, joy, grace, love, hope, and faith for you and your children in great abundance.

[1] Often blueberry pancakes, bacon, tacos, spaghetti, roast, hollandaise sauce, and/or salami and nuts for that matter.

[2] Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, 95.


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