Two years ago, I buried our beloved 106 year old widow, Ms. Tillie Roberts. There are many lessons I learned from shepherding this woman for 8 years, but I was reminded of another when I conducted the funeral that still sticks with me. That is, the fruitful effect that children can have on the lives of the elderly, and likewise, the influence they can have on our children. When I brought my family to the visitation to see Tillie’s body and say goodbye, something unexpected happened.
We were greeted by members of Tillie’s family that I had never met, but somehow knew my children and even their names because Tillie talked about them all the time out of her love for them. They were so excited to meet these “famous” children that Tillie always talked about. I began to realize my children had helped me care for this woman through the years and bring joy to her life in a way that I could not have done visiting Tillie by myself. She dearly loved children, but never had any of her own. She loved mine. It is one of the many reasons I dearly loved and appreciated this woman. Upon further reflection, I was reminded of these things also:
1) Never underestimate the impact of children in the lives of others. Those of us who are parents know that children are a gift from God. Yet, it is important for parents to realize their children are a gift to others also if we are willing to share them. There are elderly widows in our church whose weeks are made so special when a church member goes to visit them and brings their kids with them. I challenge all parents to consider this noble task in their church.
2) It is good for a child to learn to love, grieve, and let go. I was reminded of this as we drove away from the visitation and my 2 oldest daughters (then 7 and 10 years old) began to cry. Although I do not like to see my daughters cry, it reminded me that Tillie’s affection for them and my children’s affection for her was mutual. These moments are wonderful times from God to help our children understand death, be grateful for knowing these special people in our lives, and ultimately see why we so badly need the hope of the gospel in death.
3) It will cause the young and old to see the value of the other. My burden grows that the multi-generational local church is fading into the past. This should not be. The best way for us to fight against it is to do the things that cause young and old to grow in Christian love and affection for each other. How grateful I was for Tillie Robert’s contribution in this fight through the years, for in the absence of having her own children, she loved so many in the church like they were her own.
What a gift it has been both to me and my family to have known you, Tillie. You have left a faithful legacy behind that we still remember and celebrate two years later. Although it was not left to your own kids, you have many at our church who loved you as much as you loved them and will want to carry the torch. I trust my children will be at the front of the line to carry it.
Why should a pastor take his children to visit the elderly in his church? The better question seems to be, “Why shouldn’t you?”