A disturbing story appeared in the news recently about a very rich widow who left her entire fortune to a dog. And how much did the dog inherit? More than $1.6 billion – along with seven homes, over 40 cars, and a 120-foot long yacht. This “wealthiest dog in the world” is a three-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Rufus. Just exactly what he’ll do with so many homes, cars, and an ocean-going yacht is anybody’s guess.
But we haven’t gotten to the disturbing part of the story yet. The widow, Barbara Smith, who died in October 2018 of breast cancer, was not childless. She is survived by six children, all of them grown, with children of their own. Yet Barbara excluded them all from her will.
Why did she disown her children? The executor explained that since her children had not visited her in the last five years of her life, there would be no inheritance for them. To punish them she wrote them out of her will and bequeathed her entire fortune to a dog. She even stipulated in her will that if any of her children should contest the will, all her property should be “burned to the ground.”
Now, I can see how this stipulation might hurt her children and grandchildren. But I fail to understand how her dog can benefit from the destruction of her entire estate. It seems her resentment toward her children far outweighed her love for Rufus.
One also wonders why Barbara didn’t simply donate her riches to charities if she believed her own children were unworthy. Just think of how many impoverished children could have been fed and clothed with $1.6 billion. But, no. Barbara wanted to add insult to injury. Not only did she deprive her own children of wealth that could have benefitted them. She sent them the message that a dog meant more to her than they did.
Her children, of course, have their story—that their mother was cruel and abusive, that she made everyone around her miserable. Yet one would think that any child, with so much money to gain, would endure anything and feign devotion to win their mother’s favor. Evidently, Barbara’s children didn’t think so. No amount of money was worth her cruelty.
This story is troubling. It’s upsetting that any parent should be so embittered against their children that they’d destroy everything they owned to keep it out of their hands. Did her children hurt her, ignored her, or failed to show her any appreciation for all her devotion to them? Even if they did, this woman’s vindictiveness was “off the scale.”
Besides, all parents are going to be hurt by their children—at some time or in some measure. That’s the nature of parenting. Parents give and children take. Parents love, nurture, and sacrifice for the good of their children. And they do so without any guarantee that their children will reciprocate or even appreciate this love. Normally, parents willingly make these sacrifices because God places a little of His own parental love in their hearts.
Are their joys in parenting? Absolutely. But it’s an emotional roller coaster that has its highs of pride and delight, yet also its tumbles into fear and heartbreak.
This is why parenting isn’t for the faint of heart or weak. Parents cannot allow their own personal pain to impair them from loving and caring for their children. They must conquer the tyranny of their moods in order to be protective and loving to those created in their image.
Nor can parents depend upon their children for their rewards in life. Too many parents expect a “return” for their “investment” of time and love. Perhaps Barbara Smith expected love and devotion in return for all the good she’d done for them. Indeed, her children should have honored their mother—no matter how painful it might be to do so.
However, honoring their mother should not have been a prerequisite for her love. For parenting is a supremely selfless act. Parents are expected to love their children even when love is not returned. Success in parenting ultimately means that you empower your children to leave the nest and never look back. Parents exist to raise up the next generation and prepare them for life.
Therefore, if your children leave home and flourish on their own, without showing any gratitude for your sacrifices, then please understand that this is a “hazard of the profession.” All good parents will go unappreciated. And when it happens, at least you have the consolation that you are in company with the Almighty. Yes, God has given you a taste of the very pain He endures. God has shown you, through your own personal experience, exactly how He feels – though in an infinitely smaller measure.
You see, few of God’s children ever show any appreciation for all He’s given them or done for them. Yet, through your parental pain God is establishing “common ground” with you. This is a profound truth that few hurting parents understand. But what a great comfort it would be to them if they could grasp it. God is using the joys and pain of parenting to teach you about His love for you. He is helping you understand the “height, depth, breadth, and length” of His love for you as His child (Ephesians 3:18-19). He is teaching you about the pain He endures when you ignore, neglect, and wound Him.
Dear Father in heaven, as Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, help me to grasp the height, the depth, the breadth, and the length of Your love. Help me to experience this love and through it be purged of all ingratitude, selfishness, and impurity. Amen.