“Enjoy them. Before you know it, they will be grown and gone. Enjoy them every day.” These were some of the last words my PaPaw told me as we were sitting and watching my kids play.
He had already fought and beat cancer once. This time he was ready to go home to Jesus, so no chemo … no fighting … just making the most of what time he had. It hits differently when it is the second time around. The first time we were nervous but determined. He’ll beat it. We prayed, and he did the chemo, and we prayed some more. We didn’t say anything out loud about how skinny or weak he was getting. We just kept praying and tried to remain faithful that he would make it.
And he did! He started getting stronger. We started laughing about his hair coming back in darker. I remember all the great-grandkids parading around with one of his hats on, and we thought that it was behind us. After all, MaMaw had already beaten this cancer thing, and now Papaw had too.
But the second time … that unfortunately came soon after … the sadness set in much deeper. Everyone understood the decision not to do chemo again. It had almost completely destroyed his body the first time. He was at peace, and MaMaw too, knowing his work on earth was done. He was ready for heaven.
He had been a pastor for 65 years, teaching and guiding people, pointing them to Jesus. I learned a lot of lessons from him about Jesus’ love for me and about the Bible, the most important lessons. I also learned lessons from him about having fun, watching him cannon ball into the pool yelling “GERONIMO!” I learned lessons from him about gardening, walking with him as he tended his beautiful garden when I was a girl and getting his advice on my own garden as an adult. I learned lessons from him about being wise with my finances so that I can be generous with my finances.
So many lessons.
So many things he could have reminded me of … last things he could have said. But of course, he knew what I needed to hear. The kids and I had come for a quick visit but didn’t want to spread any germs to him or tire him out, so we were mostly staying outside.
I imagine he was inside the house praying for us before he decided that he would use all the strength and energy he had for the day to walk outside and watch the kids swim for a bit. I imagine the Holy Spirit tapping on his heart to know what to say, giving him the strength to say it, and giving us this gift of one last special time together. I imagine that PaPaw knew it would be the last one.
“Enjoy them.” Two words I repeat and remind myself of often.
“Before you know it they’ll be grown and gone. Enjoy them every day.”
The kids at the time were ages 10, 8, 6, and almost 2. I love my children with my whole heart. I love that I get to homeschool them and spend a lot of time with them. But I also stress out about them a ton. I get frustrated a ton. I worry so much about guiding them in the way they should go and building good character. A lot of times I forget to enjoy them.
Parenting is so hard! Our three oldest are all just around 2 years apart, and I remember when they were all either toddlers or babies at the same time. It was the toughest stage! And I remember hearing people say things about how fast it goes. “Don’t blink,” they would say. But I felt more like I was in survival mode! It was all so chaotic and … hard! Every stage is hard in its own way. It’s easy to focus on the chaotic and the hard stuff.
Even that day swimming at MaMaw and PaPaw’s I was worried about whether or not the kids were being polite or asking for too many sweets or being too loud and crazy. I was probably tired and feeling frustrated with the typical sibling fighting and fussing. I was probably annoyed with kids whining about not liking how their swimsuit felt or how they forgot to bring the only goggles in the world that work. I was probably disappointed that the youngest had not fallen asleep at all during the 3 hour car ride.
“Enjoy them.” PaPaw was not a big talker, but those two words said a lot. Stop stressing out and remember what a gift they are. Every day with them is a gift.
What a gift it was to be there that day with my grandparents and my kids. And really, the kids were fine … no, not perfectly behaved, that’s impossible … but they were fine. Why was I so stressed out? For a moment, I saw them through PaPaw’s eyes. He knew he wouldn’t get to watch them play and grow. He just sat there at peace and enjoyed it, and helped me to do the same.
The Bible is full of statements like:
- Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom – Psalm 90:12
- You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. – James 4:14
- O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! -Psalm 39:4-5
Life is short. We have around 18 summers with our children, 18 Christmases before they are grown and able to be off on their own. Enjoy them. Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10 AMPC)
The thief shows up for me as stress, anger, frustration, and worry over my children … but they are four gifts of life God gave to fill my life even more than I could imagine.
Thank you PaPaw for that last lesson. I won’t always get it right, but then I’ll remember … and I promise, I’ll enjoy them.