Are you into scary movies? I had a prolonged scary movie phase when I was in high school. My stepsister and I used to search out the most heinously stupid scary movie we could find and flop on the couch and soak/laugh it in. I am not confident that this is a super healthy habit, looking back on it, but it was very entertaining at the time. Scream, which came out after my scary movie phase in the mid-90s, was (quite creatively) a scary movie about scary movies. The characters masterfully predicted scenes based on their own knowledge of that niche of the industry and just when you would think they had it figured out, or should have had it figured out, they got the ax, or similar. Fun fact: My favorite movie line during my scary movie phase? “I know you‘re up there, Tina, because I can smell your brains!!!” (from Return of the Living Dead).
Thinking back on my childhood, take a guess what was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. Nope… no ax murders, no zombies, and no killer tomatoes in the neighborhood (although I am pretty sure Max the police dog down the street had some Cujo in him). Ghost stories? Nope. Having to use the bathroom (with no stall doors ) in high school ? A close second, but nope. Fear of nuclear war? Hardly. ***The scariest thing that ever happened to me was when I can to the realization that my parents were human and vincible (not invincible). They would eventually die. They weren’t going to be there forever. Hands down. Nothing else compares. Maybe it was stoked by losing my great-grandma? Maybe it was my Grandma Applegate’s stroke? They certainly played a part. I remember seeing them both cry for the first time when they told me of the impending divorce, but that was just another thing that got me started thinking of their vulnerability. I remember like it was yesterday quietly telling my brother, on the morning of my mom’s 40th birthday, “Steve, we really need to spend more time with mom. We won’t always have her around and she is 40 (!!!) now. (gasp!)”. I remember being flopped on the couch close to dad on Saturday morning (after he worked an all-nighter at the post office) and hearing his heartbeat, then thinking of it being stopped. (Important note: we seldom missed a Saturday morning Looney Tunes session even though he was probably quite pooped). Terrifying for a kid to process.
So, what do we do when we come to this reality? I suggest to you that we do the same kind of things that we do when we have to face our own vincibility: We live life. However, we live life in view of its temporary nature. First and most importantly, in my seldom humble opinion, we get our religious house in order. Next we strengthen our relationships with friends and family. We don’t go to sleep mad at anyone, especially our loved ones. We love one another. We serve those who love us…sure…but we also serve those who don’t necessarily love us, and we serve those who don’t like us at all in hopes of changing that. We shoot to make people’s lives better and leave with a good legacy. I fail in these areas often, but this kind of love is my plan nevertheless, as modeled by Christ. When we see our loved one as vulnerable…as vincible… we strengthen that relationship. We serve them, we love them, and we forgive them. We don’t let the relationship suffer because it is temporary, but instead grow it and cling to every minute we have knowing that time is as sands in the hourglass. We grow with them spiritually, knowing of our Gospel hope to spend eternity with them. There is lots to do, and a surprisingly little time to do it in.
So, do I still worry? Sometimes, but not as often as I did at 12 years old. I shouldn’t at all. In light of Matthew 6:25-34 it seems obviously counterproductive. But I am human and I hate even thinking of being without my loved ones, especially those close like my bride, my kids, my mom and dad (and their new spouses), and my siblings/families. We have to fight for these relationships and embrace them with a new zeal knowing that their time is short. We know how this story ends, just like they did on the movie Scream. There is “nobody gettin’ out of here alive”…. The question is, do we act on this knowledge or just do the same thing over and over and hope the outcome turns out differently?
Update: Had a nice visit with mom Saturday after my Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day (Memory Day) training session. She is still doing about the same. Her sores seemed to be better according to the staff. The nature of her stripe of dementia (mixed dementia most certainly with a vascular component) is unpredictability, so we know that this happy plateau won’t last forever, but we are sure loving every minute of it, especially as we look back at where we were a year ago. So, regardless of the uncertainty of the disease and with the confidence of our faith, we march on…
***It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would also die some day…being without my parents superseded even that.