At various times in life we move to the head of the line because of personal qualifications: “Johnnie, you are the tallest – you go first.” “Betty, you’re good a leader – you take charge.” “Lily, you know how to do this, so show the others.”
At other times, we move to the head by default. There's no one else to take on this role. This September I will be 90 ninety years old – at the head of the Funk branch of the family by default. I am the oldest in the Funk clan.
When my mother died at age nearly 99, I realized I was now an Omega, approaching the end of the line. In my book Prayers of an Omega, I wrote the following to introduce the entire series of prayer-poems about transitions in aging:
Now I am an Omega
God, my everlasting Comforter, we buried Mom today. We laid her in the ground, next to Dad. Now I am Omega, the last in our family. I’ve moved to the head of the line.
Now the storms of life can beat directly upon me. No buffer. I used to think of Mother as an umbrella, holding God’s love over us like a shield. She prayed every day for each of us by name—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She used to say that was how she remembered the names.
Now no one covers all of us with her prayers. I stand alone to pray for my children and myself. And sometimes I forget. My umbrella is gone. And it’s cold and wet in the rain.
Lord, I’m probably next in line to die. The generation above me is all gone. Now I have to be strong for the generation below me. I have to be the umbrella. For my children. Their children. And I don’t feel able. I’m not ready to be patient, long-suffering and, and forgiving, as Mother was.
And I’m afraid of the darkening shadows. Of being an Omega. It was easier being an Alpha, a child, near the beginning.
Decades ago, driving home late at night we children slumped together in the backseat of the car like four loosely packed sacks of potatoes. Though it was dark and the road was bumpy, we knew we were going to that wonderful place called home. Dad was driving, Mother was watching. We knew we were safe. We would get there.
Mother and Dad did the best they could to raise us with what understandings of family relationships they had. And daily trusted in God’s grace. They worked out understandings with their own difficult past. And worked hard at bringing us up to become responsible human beings. And kept on praying and loving.
Now Mother and Dad are both gone. I am an Omega, the last in a series. And I am afraid.
Yet you, Lord, promise to carry us like a mother eagle that spreads her wings beneath the unsure eaglet testing its flying strength. You promise to bear us should we fall.
So, Lord, spread your strong arms of love under me and around me and steady my faltering feet. Let me travel hopefully. Carry me, an Omega, by your grace. Lord, I trust you. Amen.