On Being an Orphan

A friend wrote me this week to share that her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had passed away early that morning.  This death came a year or less after her father had died.  She had been the physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual rock for each of them for a long time.

Her message reminded me of my mother’s death a few years ago.  Some months after her death, as the seasons passed and memories of her favorite things about each season began rising in my mind, it suddenly dawned on me that I was now an orphan!

I have lost two fathers, one whom I didn’t know (or perhaps I did and he livesorphan Q 1 in my subconscious more than I know) because he left for World War II when I was 3 months old and died in Germany when I was 3 years old. The other one came into my life when I was four or five and died a decade or more ago.  We never really understood each other.   And then I lost my mother with whom I waged a bittersweet battle most of my life.  Given that history, I was surprised at how devastated I was to realize I no longer had a mother or a father.

I wondered then why their collective deaths after many years was still so raw. Today, I think that one reason is that the chance to know and appreciate mothering and fathering (something I really feel was scarce in my life) was now gone.  Another is that these people knew me in a different way than anyone else in the world did and that knowledge was now unattainable. And finally, there was the grief of hearing other people speak of their parents and having only stories of the past to share in return.

Today as I mused about all this, I was reminded that orphan Q2the nurturing presence I remember longing for (and probably still do) is present in a God whom I am encouraged to call Abba.  This God calls me his child and perfectly embodies the character of a father and a mother.  And miraculously this Abba is longing for my attention as much as I am longing for his.  Whatever I lacked from my earthly parents and whatever I am missing because they are no longer here is showered on me by this loving Father who knew me before I was born and will be present in my life for eternity.

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