Last week, we watched a film that has stood the test of time – E.T. It’s a story about an alien (E.T.) who becomes stranded on earth and is befriended by a young boy (Elliott), who helps E.T. return home. As the film reaches its climax, Elliott and his friends cycle furiously to a forest where a spaceship awaits, when a battalion of armed officers blockade their path. All appears lost until E.T.’s telekinesis lifts them in the air and they fly unimpeded, towards the waiting spaceship. As E.T. prepares to board the spaceship, Elliott asks him to “Stay”, but E.T. wants to return home. Instead, E.T. embraces Elliott and points a glowing finger at Elliott’s forehead and says,“I’ll be right here”.
I’ve seen this film numerous times and it always touches my heart. However, it’s fair to say that as we mature, we find deeper meaning in books, poems, films etc., which was lost to us in our youth. And that’s the case with E.T. What struck me most about the film was its spiritual symbolism. E.T.’s innocence, vulnerability and dependency on others reminded me of my elderly parents. I immediately thought of my father who had passed away after a terminal illness. Like E.T., my father had enjoyed his adventure on earth, but his debilitating illness meant he wanted to return home – to God. So, when Elliott and his friends bundled E.T. into a basket and raced towards the spaceship, I was reminded of how determined we had been to get our father safely back into God’s hands. The authorities that tried to thwart E.T.’s journey represented the well-intentioned medics who believed hospitalisation was the right course of treatment for our father. But, we wanted him at home with us, so we could take care of him, rather than leave him with strangers.
The parallels between our life and E.T. continued…just as Elliott had wanted E.T. to “Stay”, we wished the same for our father, but knew the situation was hopeless. And whereas E.T. had pointed a glowing finger at Elliott’s forehead, my father pointed it to our hearts and said, “I’ll be right here”. Even the spaceship that arrived to collect E.T. was a powerful metaphor. As the drawbridge was lowered, we saw a figure silhouetted in the light, waiting for E.T. to board. That figure represented God – a loving Father who had arrived to collect His beloved child. Death can be a beautiful transition for those who believe there is another life waiting for them. That’s the way it was with my father. We knew we couldn’t save him, but we could ensure he left this earth knowing he was deeply loved. After all, what greater legacy is there in anyone’s life, than love? That’s all we remember when people pass away.
Last night, I stumbled on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life and she was preaching about taking care of elderly parents. I smiled at the coincidence. She said “nothing touches God’s heart more than caring for elderly parents”. The fifth of the Ten Commandments says, “Honour thy father and thy mother” and there’s a reason for that. Although life has brought plenty of success and prosperity, nothing can compare to the fulfilment I’ve derived, from taking care of my elderly parents.