Silas, my friend in Kenya, wrote that he's now an orphan. I've written him a couple of times telling him that he is not.
I think, probably incorrectly, of an orphan as one who is alone in the world, without the memories of parents. This is probably wrong according the dictionary definition. But what did Webster know?
I had imagined that when my parents died that I’d be an orphan. I would finally be free of their bonds. They would stop telling me what to do. No such luck. Their voices are even stronger because I can not say no. Or at least they pretend not to hear me. In fact, I read that Baby Boomers can't grow up until their parents die. “Do parents really die?” this Baby Boomer asks.
Why are their voices so strong? First, there is the issue that you don’t want to “kick someone when they are down.” And then there is the power of someone who doesn’t defend themselves. My father tells me to do this or that. I can’t argue with him, because, in my mind, he keeps repeating his plea.
In John 14:18 we read “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Essentially this says that there are no orphans. As a friend in college once said to me, “No matter what, God will always love you.” You aren’t alone. You not only have the memories of your parents, but you have reminders of their love in other humans, animals, plants, and even in inorganic matter.
Superman was shot from a distant planet as a baby. He was an orphan, perhaps? But when? Was it when the rocket took off? Was it when the rocket left the atmosphere of Krypton? Was it when the rocket landed on Earth? Or was it when Krypton disintegrated, moments after lift off? He was an orphan, perhaps, until he found the icicle that contained his history. Then he was no longer alone.
I’m finding, in reading the Torah, much about my parents and how they thought. But even more so, about their parents and their parents, ad infinitum. Roots was an effort to find out who you really were. We learned the words “nature vs. nurture” in school. What we might not have learned was that “nurture” wasn’t just the people who played a role in our upbringing, but those who played a role in their upbringing…back to the beginning (if there was such a thing).
Silas has a rich legacy. Though his parents aren’t with him as they once were, they are still every bit a part of him.
P.S. As is often the case, my wife tells me at dinner how I'm all wet with my thinking. In this case, she told me that the idea of orphans is just for children. Adults don't become orphans when their parents die. Wikipedia says the same, that “...orphans are children whose parents have died.” Sometimes kids are counted as orphans now if one of their parents have died.