By Asst Ps Timothy Lee
The “sandwich generation”, a term given to mid-lifers who are around the age range of 35 to 60. They are usually working adults who find themselves taking care of their children while supporting their elderly parents. The sandwich generation faces pressures and challenges in terms of time, financial and mental health. It is a pressurizing situation to be in as the average lifespan in Singapore is well beyond 80 years old. According to an annual report by the National Population and Talent Division, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above by 2030, a sign of the rapidly aging society. Caring for elderly parents is an experience most of us have or are beginning to experience.
The Bible tells us to honor our father and mother (Exod. 20:12). It is to hold respect for them. If we have healthy relationships with our parents, it will be natural to respond with love. But if our connection with our parents is not good, it can be more difficult to care for them. However, we should respect them regardless of how difficult it is to get along with them. It is pleasing to God when we honor our parents (Col. 3:20).
I would like to share some stories about the dedication of my wife, Tracey, who looked after her parents.
Caring for them and bringing them to faith
Tracey’s parents were pre-believers. Yet, they were quite receptive and open to the Christian faith. Tracey intentionally asked them to help to prepare and serve refreshments every Sunday morning for the Sunday school she was serving.
More than twenty years ago, when Tracey began her theological training in Singapore Bible College, her father made the decision to remove all the idols in their home, as he knew Tracey would become a preacher of her Christian faith. To him, a pastor is equivalent to a priest/nun, hence he should not have other gods in the same household for her sake. While around that period, Tracey’s mum suffered a stroke at the age of 52 and was wheelchair bound. Due to the fact that Tracey was the only Christian in her family at that time, she felt responsible to take care of them.
Thirteen years ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He went through an operation and was feeling quite weak for more than half a year. Even though we were expecting our eldest boy, Tracey took on the main role of accompanying him to the hospital (I was the driver) and visited him when admitted. Through the love and care of Tracey and church friends, he was baptized on the hospital bed and passed away peacefully at home, just two months before my eldest child was born.
Left alone, we purchased a resale flat so my mother-in-law could stay nearer to us and got a helper to look after her. Tracey arranged for my mother-in-law to go to church (the church my parents attend) so, on Sundays, the helper would take the bus and bring her to church. During her wake service, her church deacon shared that when my mother-in-law first went to church, she looked very unhappy and always pulled a long black face. However, her life was transformed after accepting Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. She was baptized on her birthday in 2016. In the final few years of her life, as a result of the love and care of the church community, her life was full of joy and she was always smiling. She was also obedient to the Sunday school teacher who spent time teaching her the Bible, and in turn, she knew how to read the Bible and pray.
Incorporating them in family events and activities
For every birthday celebration in our family, we would include my parents and my mother-in-law to eat out together. During the Covid period, when large groups were unable to dine out, we would order food and eat in the comfort of home. In the past two years, my mother-in-law even had to help us (with the maid pushing her on a wheelchair) pick up our children from school and send them to enrichment classes. As a result, her grandchildren were close to her.
In March this year, we went for a short trip to Malacca with my sister-in-law's family and my mother-in-law. She enjoyed the time with her grandchildren. This was the first time out of the country for her after Covid, yet it turned out to be her final overseas trip in life. She went home to be with the Lord six weeks later.
There is a season for everything. When we were young, our parents took care of us and when they were old, they needed us to take care of them. And there will be a time when they will pass on and no longer be with us, so appreciate and cherish our parents when they are around. There are times when our parents are difficult to handle, and we are discouraged and feel like giving up. Yet, through God’s grace we press on. May God grant us the love and patience. Take every opportunity to share with them the gospel and to lead them to Christ for that is the greatest blessing they can ever receive. Looking back, attempting to give the best for them gives us no regrets. May God bless us and our parents.