Bonus Material

Unpublished chapters

Behold, Your Mother

A Good Friday “more to the story[1]” message from John 19:25-27

Eternity’s darkest day feasts on his blood as each exhalation demands excruciating pressure on spiked feet to overcome gravity’s pull on his torso. Seven-inch nails through the wrists and median nerves of the carpenter’s arms transfigure strong, skillful instruments of bone and muscle into wretched dogwood-like limbs.

Abandoned from above, is someone in the sea of commotion below looking up in love? Peering through slits between bruised brow and pummeled cheeks, his yet sound mind wonders, “Where is she? One who would surely never forsake me!” Ominous clouds begin shrouding the sun’s glare. “There she is. And my dearest friend, John.” Their eyes transfixed on what remained of his.

Mustering a burst of energy to speak audibly, “Woman, behold, your son!”

And to John, “Behold, your mother!”

Over the ensuing three hours before breathing his last, Jesus audibly spoke fewer than twenty words. He spoke forty or fewer words (depending on translation) during his six-hour crucifixion. Might those have been weighty words?

Jesus ends his earthly life commending his mother to a trusted friend. It’s safe to say that Joseph had passed away some years prior. So where were Jesus’ brothers and sisters? That is, where were Mary’s other sons and daughters? After all, Matthew 13:55-56 mentions both. Why was a friend with Mary at such a moment rather than her grown children?

Jesus’ final directive to his mother and his disciple were true to the fifth commandment to honor your father and your mother. The first four of the ten commandments address our relationship with God. The fifth through tenth deal with our relationships with people. The first of those latter six—honor your father and your mother—was the only commandment given with a promise for a long life in a favorable place.

The passage after “Behold, your mother!” says, And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

I’m not aware of an earlier account of a compulsion to be a protector, and ultimately, a caregiver than those seven words from the mouth of Jesus on the cross. [In the Old Testament, Ruth insisted on looking after her mother-in-law, Naomi, out of devotion to her.] John, though young, was a grown man; he didn’t need a mommy to care for him. Jesus’ charge to John was to ensure that Mary’s needs would be met for the rest of her life. John was already in “looking out for Mary” mode by accompanying her amidst the chaos of the triple crucifixion spectacle.

Heading into your own journey for securing sanity and peace during your parents’ and then your own sunset years, what are three principles that you might glean from this brief account of recorded history’s most pivotal event?

  1. Honor your parents. On some counts you know what your parents want. On other counts, you need to ask them. Respectfully and tactfully asking your parents the uncomfortable questions about their wishes for their sunset years and beyond while they are still mentally fit is honorable. As a reader of this page, I know you are already compassionate, considerate, respectful, and tactful with your family. Be mindful that other family members might not be so much. In honoring your parents, you’ll be modeling your expectations from your own grown kids. If they lack these traits, at least they’ll have your actions as reminders.
  2. Men need to face caregiving issues head-on. One could argue that this historical event illustrates that the man should be in charge of arranging care for women. I’m not one to argue that. Rather, consider the context of the times. It was a man’s world. The generally physically weaker sex held a roughly proportionately weaker social status. Yet Jesus commands a young man in his prime to look after his evidently widowed mom. He essentially declares that caregiving is not exclusively women’s work. This is not news to the men who today make up one out of three caregivers. But the reality is that the other two out of three are women. Is that because the men in their lives won’t? Sometimes. Men and women must plan together so their roles and resources unfold as agreed to in advance.
  3. Responsibilities don’t disappear; they transfer from the unwilling to the willing. Amidst the most excruciating conditions, Jesus arranged care for his mom’s sunset years. John was evidently willing (he’d already escorted Mary through the mobs). John likely knew Mary’s family situation well. With Joseph gone, Jesus was the default patriarch. He held the familial position of the day to issue the decree that sealed what John likely expected. (As much as one could argue his Divine Authority compelled John, the point here is the example Jesus was setting in the context of taking care of business—even if that means turning to capable people outside the family bloodline). It’s a principle that plays out later in the Keep Your Life book. Consider yourself and your likelihood of needing care when dark clouds begin to shroud the sunshine in your life. Will you want willing or unwilling helpers?

Oh, if uttering a mere seven words (“Woman, behold, your son!” and “Behold, your mother!”) were sufficient for any of us to arrange likewise! If you can pull that off, more power to you! 

Fast forward two millennia.

Imagine charging, say, your oldest son: “Evan! When I can’t make it to the bathroom on my own, you’ll be there to help me. Got it? And by golly don’t run out of TP!”

Thinking it through, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t want Evan doling out the care even if he were up for the task. Remember Evan’s room when he was a teenager? Has it changed much?

Pretty unimaginable, right?

At the same time, would you likewise charge your oldest daughter? “Ellen! When I can’t take care of myself anymore, you’ll help me. You love me, don’t you?”

Ellen is thinking:

“What if you’re taking care of Dad, then you have a stroke so I have to take care of both of you? And since my husband is four years older than me, his parents are a good four years older than both of you . . . and my husband has no sisters . . . and his brothers are scattered across time zones, taking care of them will fall on me, too! And my Joey’s baby is already mine to raise since Sunflower’s in drug rehab while Joey’s living in our basement supposedly because he can’t find a job, though our cable bill keeps climbing with his online searches . . . I didn’t know job postings were on YouTube and Netflix . . . I wish he’d take the trash out . . . I didn’t raise him in a barn, for crying out loud. Ugh! It’s 4:30 and I didn’t grocery shop yet . . . Diapers are on sale . . . It’s double coupon month, better get gas in the truck . . . What was Mom saying?”

Ellen’s chaotic conundrum is more common than we care to admit.

Even if your Evan is a responsible gentleman, and your Ellen is an organized achiever, can you simply expect either to to step up when you need help for the rest of your life?

If “the rest of your life” means days or weeks, probably. But it as easily could mean months or years. Then what?

A genuine conversation is a good start.

But is a conversation sufficient for you to expect to keep your life and live your endgame in a way that Loved Ones stay Loved Ones?

Decide now, while you can. And while family is perhaps more available now than ever.

Then keep in mind, will each family member remember the conversation in the same way? If so, for how long?

As responsibilities transfer to someone else, will outsiders—bankers, investment custodians, insurers, title companies, doctors, hospitals, your state and Uncle Sam—have a sound basis for cooperating with that someone?

In Jesus’ day, verbal agreements could be sealed with the presence of two or three reputable witnesses. Dozens of onlookers, including a Roman centurion, were within earshot of Jesus’ succinct behest.

Although less dire conditions should frame your conversations, they will entail more than seven words.

Which words?

How recorded?

How enforced?

Backed up by whose money?

And now, how to pull this together without sharing the same air space?

Food for thought this Easter weekend.

PS:    Keep Your Life: Plan Your Endgame So Loved Ones Stay Loved Ones condenses real life stories of the 7 epic mistakes the masses continually make. It then paves you a path to confidence, accountability and relief for coordinating your retirement and estate planning—your endgame.

[1] This is my unscholarly attempt to glean some universal principles from an historical event familiar to hundreds of millions of people. I’ve never heard or read this perspective before. Perhaps you have, in which case feel free to add beneficial depth in the comments on our Facebook Page.