Monday, November 14, 2011

Joseph Hears Of His Father’s Final Illness - Genesis 48:1

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.”  So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him.

Ultimately, every son or daughter who knew who his or her parents were, will eventually get a call or otherwise be told that one or both of them had passed away.  There is nothing one can do to avoid that except perhaps to have become estranged with the family while one’s parents are still alive (in fact, I know of one friend right now who’s son is so estranged from the family that they cannot even get a message to him about a serious illness in the family).

Some of us are a little more fortunate and we are given a chance to see our parents just before they die.  In my own personal life, I have experienced both.  I never got a chance to say good-bye to my mother for when I got to my parents’ home before the ambulance arrived she was already in a coma from which she never recovered.  I rode with her in the ambulance but I am not sure what she understood at that point.  I remember receiving the call in the middle of the night from the hospital telling me they had done all they could.  In the case of my father, my wife and I spent the whole day with him and were beside him when he breathed his last.  Those are days, regardless of what transpires, that are never forgotten.

Joseph got that call when the Scripture tells us that he was told, perhaps genteelly, “Behold, your father is sick.”  He knew there and then given his father’s advanced age and his earlier condition that these were indeed his final hours.  As a son, or daughter, you sense it somehow, though continually pushing it to the back of your mind and always hoping for just one more turnaround.

In most circumstances, what you feel when it is your father or your mother that is terminally ill, is nothing to what you feel when it is a somewhat more distant relative as an uncle or aunt, no matter how much you loved them.  That same difference in feelings is true also in the case of actual death.  During my youth and even older life, I would give anything to have been with some of my uncles and aunts, but their deaths didn’t affect me the same way as the loss of either of my parents.

Joseph now gets that call for the second time in his life.  His mother Rachel had died when he was a young man in the process of her giving birth to his brother Benjamin.  Now, he was about to lose his father and he knew it.  The oath that he had made to him just prior to this now made sense.  He himself now wanted to facilitate the tradition of a grandfather blessings his grandchildren and so he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him.

My own children were too young (nine years old, eight years old, and six months old) when my mother died but I do remember the two older ones at the funeral.  In the case of my dad, they all came to the hospital on his last day and also later in the day as he was shutting down, being only able to hear them.  I remember my young son’s words, “Pappou (grandpa), I’m here, it’s Basil, I love you.”  And then that was it; my dad was gone.

It was that kind of scene that Joseph and his two boys were heading into.  It is that kind of scene that many today are called to as seniors either choose to, or are forced to, live on their own.  One of our next-door neighbors is a widow who just turned 93.  She is frail and walks with a walker.  She lives alone by choice feeling more comfortable in the home she enjoyed for decades with her husband.  I cannot definitely say, “she should not” even though I want to.  But once again as I write, she is in the hospital with a broken hip because of a bad fall.  Her son dreads getting the calls that follow.  One day he’ll get the last call about his beloved mom.

As much as events like this can change our lives drastically and they do, as Christians with parents who were also believers, we have the privilege or benefit of being able to approach such an event with both a feeling of sadness for the loss we are faced with, but also with the joy of knowing our loved one is now resting peacefully without pain in the arms of their Creator and one day we shall see them again.  For those of us whose parents may not be Christians, we must rest on the knowledge that our omnipotent, all-powerful, all-loving God will strengthen us, His children, in a way that He alone can, so that we may go on being of value and help to those that we are called to serve as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and in whatever capacity we serve Him.  Joseph was ready to do just that as he headed to see Jacob, his father, perhaps for the last time.

If your mother or father is still alive, you are blessed no matter what their condition is.  You still have them.  You can make right anything that isn’t as far as your relationship with them goes.  Will you make certain that each day you have with them counts for good?  Make the effort to make that call?  Send that small gift?  Go out of your way to visit?  You need to let them know you love them with your deeds and your words.  And you will be the one receiving the blessing.

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