By guest author Adriana Caruso
Honoring our fathers and mothers in old age is not some kind of suggestion for us as followers of Christ. It is a commandment and a privilege. As a homeschooling family, we had the honor of taking care of Grandpa in our own home for several years, most of which were enjoyed in good health by God’s grace.
God’s model for education is discipleship. Bringing Papa home was a great opportunity for our daughters to learn from him, given the wisdom of his years. Papa was a prisoner of war during World War II, and he would often tell us around the dinner table about his experiences during that time.
Even though our children were too little to understand, they vividly remember the stories. Many years have gone by, and now we are covering World War II in our history. For my girls, it is very exciting to study about the piece of history Papa experienced.
With Grandpa, homeschool became lively. There is nothing like a real passionate Italian teaching about how to grow tomatoes, peppers, and onions “the right way.”
He modeled for us frugality, a character trait he learned during the Great Depression. We learned from his apprehension of incurring debt (to the extent he never owned a credit card). Those were the first lessons on finances my daughters obtained at a very early age, lessons engraved deep in their hearts and minds.
As Christian parents, teaching our children diligence and hard work is essential. Our primary resource for this training is the Bible, the Word of God. Papa was a great model of diligence and hard work for us. Even in his late 80s he would spend hours working in the garden, sometimes up to six hours at a time in the extreme heat of Florida where we live.
The study of geography started early in our home. Once the girls learned about the continents, they became really excited when they realized that sitting around the table we had representatives of three continents: Grandpa from Europe, Mom from South America, and Dad and the girls from North America. Wow!
When Papa was 90 years old, he came down with pneumonia, and the severe infection damaged his kidneys. Dialysis was necessary three times a week, four hours each time. Up to that point homeschooling and taking care of Papa were effortless. From then on we had to shift gears. Our focus was ministering to him in his time of need.
Needless to say, dialysis is very rigorous and difficult at any age, but at 90 it was almost unbearable. Proverbs 17 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” We witnessed that on Papa’s darkest days of pain and long hours of treatment.
We would pick him up after dialysis and could see the toll the procedure had taken on him. But he would make a great effort to crack a smile as soon as the door opened and the first thing he could see was his two granddaughters, excited to see him and ready to take each arm and help him to the car.
Traveling time from our home to the dialysis center was too long to go home and come back to pick him up. This was the perfect time to get the books out and study for four hours, sometimes at a bookstore nearby, but oftentimes in the car.
The season was a very difficult and challenging time for all of us. His dietary requirements were ever changing, and he was getting weaker and needed greater care from our part. I wish I could tell you that on a practical level I had batch cooking ready to go for every meal and that everything was organized and ran smoothly. But the truth was, it seemed we were just surviving.
Through it all, the Lord used this time of trial for His glory and for our good. He was refining us in the process as we depended on His strength and guidance day by day to do what was most relevant and had more eternal value. The lessons on compassion and generational faithfulness that my girls learned – lessons that no curriculum can provide – marked who they are and how they relate with the elderly.
As Papa endured a whole year of treatment, it was clear that his demise was near when he had to be hospitalized and his condition worsened. Since his desire was to die in his own home down in South Florida, we wanted to honor him by taking him there. My husband signed the required papers and took him out of the hospital. We all traveled to South Florida to gather with our niece, (Papa’s granddaughter), her husband, and their two little girls to be with our dear Papa for his departure.
Our time together was priceless. We thanked him for all he did for us, let him know how much he meant to us, and told him how grateful we were to have him in our lives. We shared many hugs, kisses, and tears. We prayed as all four generations stood next to each other in a huddle, interceding, worshiping, and waiting. The next day, early in the morning, Papa met his Savior. Once again, we gathered and thanked God for His faithfulness and His goodness to us.
As believers we are called to be set apart, to be the salt of the earth. Our lifestyle should be countercultural in a secular society characterized by the marginalization of the elderly and glorification of the youth. We, the children of God, ought to exemplify biblical living. In fact, a generational home should be the norm.
I am not going to tell you that it was easy. But, it was a tool that the Lord used for our sanctification. There is a lot of growing involved, and it can be painful at times. But, it is the right thing to do. It is God’s design and it is good. I encourage you to press on and to glorify God by being a good ambassador for Him who took you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
If you’re interested in more information on this topic, check out Christian Family Eldercare.org, an affiliate of CHEC.