The Old Folks
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"I suppose I must go down and see the old folks, pretty soon, but it is a dull job," said a fashionably-dressed young man to me one evening. "The country is so dull, after living in the city, that I dread to go there; there is nothing to look at, and nowhere to go; but mother is getting pretty feeble, and I ought to go."
I perceived that the "old folks" he so disrespectfully spoke of, were no other than his own father and mother.
"I could get along with one day well enough," he said, "but the old folks are never satisfied unless I stay a week, or three or four days, and I get sick of it, it is so dull. I used to go and see them once or twice a year, but now it is some two or three years since I have been there. I could go oftener, but it is so tedious; and then they make so much of me, and cry so when they see me, that it makes me feel bad, because I do not go as much as I ought; so sometimes I think I will not go at all."
How little had this careless son thought of his aged parents, and how daily, how hourly had those aged parents thought of him, and how many fervent prayers had ascended to God for him from that quiet fireside! He knew not how many evils those prayers had averted from his ungrateful head, or how many blessings they had poured upon him.
But all sons are not thus ungrateful. A young friend of mine, who has resided sixteen years in the same great metropolis, has never failed to visit his parents twice a year, and goes oftener, or whenever it is possible for him to leave his business. I accidentally saw a letter he addressed to a sister a short time ago, which shows that a young man can be immersed in extensive business, and yet find time to love and venerate his mother.
"I received a short note from mother," he writes, after hearing that she had been ill. "I am fearful that she is not improving. If she is any worse, or becomes dangerously sick, I desire to know it. I dread the thought that our mother cannot be spared to us many years at best — it may be but a few months. I have thought of it very much for a few weeks. Although she has lived nearly her threescore years and ten, and nature has become almost exhausted, yet how I would miss her! how we all should mourn for her! What a mother she has been to us! What a woman; what an example; what a Christian! I am sure of it, I know it, that she has been my dearest object of love and affection all the days of my life. However I may have strayed from her bright examples and her teachings, my mother has always been before me, beckoning me to walk in the right way; and if I have not prayed myself with the fervor and devotion that I should, I have always felt that she was supplicating for me. How much she has loved us, how much she has cared for us! What a sacred treasure, even to the end of our lives, will be the memories of our mother!
"I see her now, as she looked to me, when she stood by the bedside of our dying brother, cheering him in his sufferings; and I hear her say, "The same clock that told the hour of his birth, is now telling the hour of his death!" What a scene was that! We know, dear sister, that these things must be, and it is not in a melancholy strain that I write; but every indication of the approaching end of mother stirs within me all the tenderness of my heart. Her removal will be to the brightest Heaven, die when she may. Old age is but the threshold of death, and after a life spent as our mother's has been, the portals of another world can have no dreary look."
How ennobling, how touching are this young man's words! We cannot but respect him for his beautiful reverence and love for his mother. Years of life in New York, subject to every snare and every temptation, engaged in an engrossing and extensive business, with the heat and passion of youth upon him — yet the one steady flame of deep love for his mother burned undimmed in his heart.
Mothers, she was a mother worthy of such a son. She was a Christian mother. Would you inspire similar love and reverence? Be like her, an earnest and heart-felt follower of the blessed Redeemer.
And let every heartless, neglectful son remember the thorns of agony his thoughtlessness implants in the hearts of his parents. Let him call to remembrance the helpless years of his childhood, and all the self-sacrificing love that fills their hearts, and now return to them and to God the love and gratitude which are so justly due.