Our family’s Christmas celebration was one of those bittersweet life experiences. Sweet because of our Lord’s presence and His awesome gift of life. Bitter because my 97 year old paternal grandma whom I affectionately named “Mom” was promoted to her first Christmas in heaven just one week before our earthly festivities. So our holiday week included a family reunion in the tiny hometown of Carmi, Illinois.
What an amazing experience to traverse the years and memories as I returned to the old family church and the scenes of the early seasons of my girlhood. So much has changed and yet so much seemed the same.
A very visible part of Mom’s legacy is the more than a hundred quilts that she handmade. Yes, she worked with the proverbial tapestry and wove beautiful covers for her bed. But outshining them all is the beauty of the spiritual tapestry of her life.
As I was called upon to deliver the message at her funeral the choice for my scripture reflection was incredibly obvious. Mom Renshaw was by very definition the Proverbs 31 woman.
Sometimes in the emotions of death, a eulogy seems “overgrown” for the size of the person. Not so with Mom Renshaw. I found myself wanting to ceremonially close out a family era by displaying Mom’s life as an example to hold dear to my own daughters’ hearts. I wanted them to know that my grandma had done what so few women ever do. She had conquered the “whine.”
You know that obnoxious, fallen female nature that we all seem to be born with? The one that makes us grouchy, bossy, selfish nags and causes most of our fights with our husbands. Somehow, Mom, through her precious Savior, matured out of that petty, school-girl land and became the virtuous woman who received her “praise at the city gates!”
In all my years, I never heard Mom say a single negative word about her precious husband Elvis. (Surely that qualifies for some sort of sainthood!) She truly “did him good and not harm all the days of his life.” Even when, in his final years, Alzheimer’s caused him to think she was the neighbor and not his precious Vonda.
For 55 years Mom volunteered every week at two local nursing homes. Two nursing home visits each week! Both homes that were so old and decrepit that my childhood mind could not understand how anyone could choose to visit there. But the residents waited eagerly for her cheerful, smiling face and warbling-voiced hymn sing.
And then there was the lifetime of “Mom’s Special Soup” that she would lovingly deliver to anyone she knew who was sick or wounded. I honestly thought as a child that all grandmas came to take care of you when you were sick and that all grandmas stayed on to wash the windows, clean out the cupboard and then do all the ironing. Because my grandma always did.
As I spoke of her life, my eyes would fill with tears. Tears of both remembrance and regret. I would never forget how Mom tackled every household chore with cheerful laughter. I would never forget how the pile of dishes at the end of her bounteous home cooked meal seemed to be a trophy of honor instead of a torture of doom.
I would never comprehend how Mom found contentment and joy living on a very meager household salary. Year after year she recycled the wax paper liners from her off-brand cereal boxes long before ecology was even a thought. I never thought as a child that Mom and Pap-paw were poor. Because every moment in their presence made me feel rich.
Yes, the remembrances were precious. But also my heart ached with regret. Only my oldest children would know firsthand her legacy. Kalyn, as she spoke at the service, could carry Mom’s example into her young marriage and think of Mom if she felt tempted to mistreat her groom, Adam. But what about my eight-year-old daughter, Lydia? How could she remember this Proverbs 31 Woman when she would only think of assisted living homes and funerals? And what about my granddaughter Lili? She wouldn’t even have that!
My heart ached at the loss of heritage. Until suddenly it hit me: Mom is gone. But her baton is there for the taking. I would need to become the Proverbs 31 woman for my granddaughters to see!
Wow! What an incredible challenge. This means I am going to have to finish conquering the “whine!”
Mom, I sure hope you are cheering me on from the great cloud of witnesses! I have some large shoes to fill. Too much for me, but not too much for Mom’s Savior.
Lord, You did it in Mom’s life; will You do it mine too? Will You transform me into such a kind, loving, gentle servant of Yours that my grandkids and great-grandkids will not be at a loss for words when they are called on to speak at my funeral.