“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
It can be tough being in the sandwich generation. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the name for the generation that must divide responsibility between the care of our own children at home and our aging parents. In my case, it is my almost 90 year old mother, who has lost nearly all of her hearing and much of her sight and who just recently gave up driving.
My mother still lives in the home that she and my Dad built back when my brothers and I were in high school. It was not only her dream home, but is filled with many special memories and a lifetime of “stuff”. She has no intention of leaving it. My brother and I each live within a few miles of her and are able to check on her often. My Dad, who was strong, agile and very independent until he was stricken with cancer, passed away several years ago, which is when the need arose for me to take on more responsibility for my mom.
I complain sometimes. You see, when I am with my mom I must play what is the equivalent of an energetic game of “Charades” in order to communicate with her. It wipes me out. Her “top of the line” hearing aids do not help her. The charging of the microphone accessory is too complicated for her with her eyesight as it is, and her disdain for technology doesn’t help the situation.
There are so many, many doctors and dentists appointments, as well as, trips to the grocery store and the hairdresser that I have to fit in between my own appointments and the needs of my busy daughter and my very patient husband. You get the picture?… of the sandwich pressed inside the George Foreman grill?
Sometimes when I’m feeling really overwhelmed, I’ll call or text my hubby and have a pity party about how tough it is to deal with all my mom’s needs…then, just as I’m spouting off my list of complaints, the Lord will inevitably “slap me up beside the head” (southern speak for a not so gentle reminder) and remind me of the lifetime of needs that my precious mother met for me.
She nursed me when I was sick…agonizing over my condition as my 5 year old self lay in a hospital bed with encephalitis. She handmade my clothes when we had very little money. She cooked a lifetime of hot meals for me, doing wonders with Spam and bologna during the lean years. She made sure I had piano lessons, and band classes and that I practiced every day. She patiently rode out the tumultuous middle school years, when I wasn’t her friend and complained that she and my dad were way too strict. And she attended numerous band concerts, choir concerts, football games, and recitals…too many to count…always proudly cheering me on whether I was playing, cheering, or singing…always there with a smile on her face. She sacrificed so that I could go to college and she patiently walked with me through the heartache of a broken marriage.
My mother had worked at the FBI and the Department of the Navy as a young woman, but when her children came, she devoted her life to us…steadily and consistently loving, teaching, and serving us. Always modeling a life of faith and a love of God. And lest we forget… spanking us when we needed it!
Of course the most important thing my sweet mother did for me was to take me to church…year after year…steeping me in the gospel…teaching me to love God’s people and to revere his Word. That changed my life for eternity as I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
My mother has always been very strong, capable, and independent. So I know it is especially hard for her to ask for help now. She doesn’t want to put her children out or to inconvenience us. Her generation is known as the greatest generation due to the strife and turmoil they endured and the strength of their character.
So, when I begin to complain about the pressure of the sandwich generation and the difficulty of having to meet my elderly mom’s many needs, I pray that God will remind me of the selfless life of love and devotion she lived for me. After all, it is truly an amazing blessing that my mom is still here to share life with us at 90 years old…so many families do not have that privilege. And I thank God that my own children are able to see the beautiful example of her extraordinary life… lived in devotion to her family and faithfulness to her God.
So you see…being a sandwich is really a blessing in disguise! And it’s an opportunity to repay, in small part, the selfless love of a mother.
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV)
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)