What are the blessings of caring for aging parents?
For thirty one years, Las Vegas was my home. That’s where I met my wife and where our children were born. We were familiar with the city and had an abundance of friends and relatives there, but in 2001, God placed a desire in our hearts to move. That desire superseded family ties, friendships, and our acquaintance with the city we had called home for so long. There was only one problem: I didn’t know where to go.
Remembering a Seven-Year-Old Request
Because I enjoy dry air, I wanted to live in a climate similar to that of Las Vegas. We considered Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon, but couldn’t decide where to go. Sensing my frustration, my wife asked if I had prayed about this decision. Truthfully, seeking God’s heart on this question hadn’t occurred to me! I had been so busy thinking of places that would meet my desires and fulfill my agenda that I forgot that God not only calls and provides—He also directs.
After a time of prayer for direction, I opened my Bible to continue my daily reading schedule. That day I read Jeremiah 35, which describes the family loyalty of the Rechabites and explains their commitment to obeying the commands of their ancestors.
My thoughts immediately went to God’s command to “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12), and I thought of the blessings promised to those who obey this command. I remembered that seven years earlier my dad had asked me to move to Tennessee, where he lived. At the time, my response was an emphatic “no.” I had many reasons to support my decision, including Tennessee’s humid climate. Yet now my excuses disappeared in the light of Scripture. I felt a tremendous peace as the Word of God spoke to my heart, creating a desire to follow the example of the Rechabites and honor my father’s wish. The place where I had not wanted to live became the destination I pursued with passion.
Overcoming Obstacles with Determination
As we spent the next few weeks planning our move, we faced obstacles that seemed insurmountable. My dad was skeptical about my sudden change in heart, and he called to ask how I was going to solve the problems at hand. I said, “I don’t know, Dad, but God knows, and He will tell me what to do.” Because my faith was rooted in God’s Word, I was not anxious. Each obstacle was overcome in a way that demonstrated God’s care and provision for us. In September, 2001, we moved to Columbia, Tennessee.
When we arrived, my dad met us at a gas station so he could direct us to his house. Hugging us and crying, he had a difficult time believing we had actually moved. He asked me several times when we were moving back to Las Vegas, and I assured him that we were here to stay.
Discovering the Blessings of Obedience
The blessings of relocating to Tennessee became evident almost immediately. The air smelled fresh and clean, and the green landscape was an overwhelming contrast to the brown and barren deserts of Nevada. Also, because we were on the outskirts of town, we were delighted to be close to farm life. Corn, soybeans, and hay are grown on most farms and livestock abounds.
Most of our relatives on both sides of the family live in or around Columbia. I soon met great aunts who were over ninety years old, and we found “Crigger Road” in Lewisburg, which is named after our family. As time passed, I learned about our family history—hearing about the good times, as well as learning about the iniquities that have weakened our family for generations.
My children were able to spend a lot of time with my dad. He was truly a humorous man. Dad always said he would rather laugh than cry, and laugh he did, as my family and I often joined him in uncontrollable laughter. Along with his good humour, I also saw my dad’s wisdom and common sense in action, and I began to ask for his advice on many topics.
Remaining Committed Even in Hardships
When my dad’s health began to decline, my family and I learned to help with everyday tasks that had become difficult for him. Decreasing health irritated my father, which prompted an unpleasant, intense disposition. Sometimes he responded with verbal assaults that were extremely painful to me, my wife, and children. I prefer to not remember those instances, let alone write about them.
On several occasions, I wanted to give up and leave. Yet each time these thoughts entered my mind, God’s Word come to my heart with loving persistence, “Honor thy father” (Exodus 20:12). My initial response would be, “But he did this and that, and it is hurting me and my family!” God’s patient response was always the same: “Honor thy father.” His command remained, no matter what circumstance I faced. I wanted my dad to change, but God was using these pressures to change me.
After living in Tennessee for five years, we had an opportunity to rent a house that offered everything our family needed and desired. Every detail seemed perfect, except one: the house was forty-six miles away from my father’s home. With my dad’s failing health, he needed more help. It was already difficult to help him, living just eleven miles away, so how could I manage living forty-six miles away from him?
Peace came to my heart as soon as I made the decision not to move. When I told my dad about my decision, he responded with a warm, glad smile. I am grateful for God’s leading in this area, because I did not know that within a year my dad would pass away and we would no longer have the opportunity to help him.
Receiving a Once-In-a-Lifetime Gift
That next year was a mosaic of mixed experiences: receiving strength and wisdom from God in the midst of stretching circumstances, feeling pain and loss as I watched my father’s health fade, and making some wonderful memories.
The most memorable experience I had with my father began when I learned about seeking blessings from my father and giving blessings to my own children. God impressed on my heart that honoring my father is not limited to his lifetime, but it can continue even after his death. I realized that I could honor my dad through his blessings to me, so I drafted a letter to him as a request for his blessings on my life and on our family.
I moved to Columbia to honor you as my father in 2001, because of God’s prompting from His Word. I enjoy helping you with your needs, but I especially enjoy the time we have together as father and son.
Our time together will end one day, but I do not want the honor toward you to end. My desire is that generations to come would honor you in a great way, and I believe God in His wisdom has designed the way for that to happen through the blessings of the father.
When you bless me and my family, I will write down those blessings on paper with your signature attached so each generation can know that my father, Gaston Crigger, was the man God used to bless all the generations to come. The blessings upon the Crigger family will begin with you, Dad.
In response, Dad named several things he wanted to impart as blessings for my family and allowed me to suggest additional blessings. We shared a sweet time and shed tears together. I prayed for God’s guidance in listing the blessings and determining where each one could be found in Scripture.
When the day came to examine the final draft together, I read every blessing to my dad—all three pages of them. He listened attentively, and when I read the blessing of conquering “anger, bitterness, and wrath” with the “love, joy, and peace” of Jesus Christ, he said emphatically, “I agree with that wholeheartedly!” My dad, after so many years, acknowledged this generational sin and wanted it conquered.
He agreed with all of the blessings and added one more instruction to make them complete. He told me of a time when he was a boy, and his dad told him not to look back as he ploughed the field behind a mule. He wondered why he shouldn’t look back, so he did. The rows appeared normal to him, but when his father returned, he knew my dad had disobeyed. Dad asked him how he knew, and he replied, “The rows look like a snake and you can’t grow anything there.” So my dad told me not to look back on my life, but to keep looking forward.
Dad said he would sign the blessings after I printed them. I will never forget the day when I knelt down and my father put his hands on my head and shoulder and said, “The Lord bless you with all of these blessings in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” My dad’s blessing was genuinely heartfelt. He spoke with a tone of confidence that assured me that the blessings were exactly what he wanted for me and my family. I felt like a little boy whose father has taken him aside and told him what a special son he was, and my heart filled with joy because of my father’s delight in me.
In September 2007, Dad went to the emergency room with a light heart attack. He was admitted to a nursing home because he was weak and losing weight. A week later I brought him some needed items, and before I left he looked up and said, “Thanks for going out and getting these things for me. I will see you tomorrow.” I replied, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad.” Two hours later, he had a massive heart attack and passed from this life.
Looking Forward to a Legacy of Blessings
This journey is not over. While my family has experienced blessings, both practical and spiritual, since the day I chose to obey God by honoring my father, I don’t believe the blessings will end here. I look forward to sharing with my children, future grandchildren, and great-grandchildren the joy I have found in my father’s blessing as a result of obeying God’s command to honor my father.
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Honor Your Parents. (See Matthew 15:4.) When Robert and Raen moved to Tennessee, they discovered many blessings through honoring Robert's father.