In Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis wrote, “With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life . . . no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.” Lewis was just 9 years old when his mother died, and I’ve always been struck by the picture of his mother’s death being like the sinking of a continent.
No matter how old you are when you lose a parent, their death leaves you feeling like an orphan. If you’re older when this happens, you probably realize that you have lost a person who loved you with a unique intensity from anyone else on earth.
Ursula Hegi wrote a collection of short stories titled Hotel of Saints. One of the stories titled “Freitod” tells of a woman suffering from a terminal illness who chooses to end her life. As the woman describes her love for her two grown children, she says, “You love your children far more than you ever loved your parents, and – in that love, and in the recognition that your own children cannot fathom the depth of your love – you come to understand the tragic, unrequited love of your own parents.”
It’s sobering to realize that your own mother carried a vast love for you, and you never realized what that love was like until you had children of your own. I don’t make this observation of the lopsided love to scold adults into ramping up their demonstration of love for their parents (although most parent/child relationships could stand some of this, especially as the parent ages). I make the observation that this lopsided love - just is. Maybe it’s another manifestation of the fallen world we live in.
But maybe it’s also a picture of our relationship with God. Most of us view God from a childlike perspective. He’s the caretaker who provides for all of our needs. How often do we contemplate the immensity of His love for us compared to what we give Him in return?
Even though our parents die, our continents sink, maybe they were a small picture of the vast, everlasting love of God. Our returned love is completely overshadowed by His love for us. And that’s just how it is.
Thank you, Elisabeth Elliot, for how you always opened your broadcasts - “You are loved with an everlasting love. . . And underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Jeremiah 31:3 and Deuteronomy 33:27)