My mother asked me once she went into hospice care, why God was keeping her alive. She wasn’t able to do much of anything for herself. She was dependent upon others for almost everything. “Why doesn’t God just take me?”
I felt an inspiration after hearing her say this a few times. “Mom,” I said, “All of us need people to love. The greatest love is unselfish love; where we love people who will never be able to pay us back. Your role now is to be someone for others to love unselfishly. You may not like it, but they need you so they can love and serve you unselfishly. It makes them happy AND holy.”
Still, most of us don’t like receiving the unselfish love of others. We dislike being indebted to another.
The giving of unselfish love is a primary characteristic of the beginning of life. We were all loved unselfishly by mothers who carried us for nine months and went through the pain of giving birth and the sleepless nights that followed.
The receiving of unselfish love is a primary characteristic of the end of life. The difference is that as adults we are aware of the unselfish love being shown to us in a way a baby is not, and often we don’t like it.
Maybe this is a preparation for judgment day. We owe a debt to God that we cannot repay. We have been loved unselfishly through being created and redeemed and there is nothing we can give to God that isn’t already his.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.John 15:13
Jesus Christ did that for us.
Unselfish love at its finest.
This reflection by Mike Shaughnessy is excerpted from his book, Eternity Bound: Reflections on the Grace of Aging, December 2023, paperback and ebook available from Amazon.com. See recent book interview by Living Bulwark with the author.
Top image credit: close-up photo of loving support for an aging parent, from Bigstock.com, © by fizkes, stock photo ID: 429877028. Used with permission.
Mike Shaughnessy is a lifelong member of the Servants of the Word, an international ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He is a prolific writer. He has written extensively about youth work and currently leads Grandly, a ministry helping grandparents pass on their faith to their grandchildren. He lives in Lansing, Michigan USA.