I kissed retirement goodbye—at least the kind traditionally planned for in America. My mother has finally persuaded me that there are better things to do when I reach her age.

In August, I wrote about caring for family with end-of-life challenges. My mother, at 78, started to go blind while on a mission trip to Mongolia. Her sight was saved through high-dose steroids, which tripped other health concerns which were compounded by the discovery of breast cancer.

The subsequent surgery left her fragile. She fell and added injury to sickness and disease. We gathered with he r in August to discuss how to care for her as she enters what I call “the frowning years.”

Ecclesiastes calls them plainly “the evil days” when
the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. (12:1-5)
The point of this description is to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (12:1). I20take this to mean: Taste and see the goodness of God while all your senses are in full function, and your strength is still intact.

Savor him while you can—before your teeth fall out (the grinders cease) and your eyes fail (the windows are dimmed) and your bones ache with every move (the grasshopper drags itself along); before the fears of dying assail you and sap your strength and try your faith one last time before they are swallowed up in victory.

Evidently, at 78, my mother is still in the days of her youth. Since August, she has prayed and fought for her health.

Last week she left for Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. She joined a team of trainers for a Leadership Development Conference in which 90 teachers from around the country took their school vacation week to learn to study and teach the Bible through an inductive-study method. Seven more teachers planned on being there.

But my mother writes, “They did not get here because their charter bus was ambushed by robbers and the driver was killed.” In spite of such things, she writes of the thrill of watching teachers learn to read out of the Bible its unsearchable riches rather than read into it preconceived notions.

She concludes, “I have been so blessed to be here that at times I think I will burst!” Evidently, she intends to die with her mission boots on as she faces down those “frowning years.”

– John Ensor

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