Moments of Grace | May she always know how intensely she is loved
On Thanksgiving, when my mother-in-law, Lavern, fell and suffered a subdural hemorrhage, circumstances and God's grace forced our family to reflect on not only how to make her life as positive as possible but also what an incredible gift she has been for us.
Often we search desperately to find the presence of God in our lives. We somehow feel that Moments of Grace are just too few and far between. Then, suddenly we view it, in its full splendor, in the place where we have clearly taken it for granted. My mother- and father-in-law, John and Lavern, have provided, beyond measure, incredible grace to our family. Their humble, quiet, total offering of their lives to us throughout the years has made God clearly present.
"Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize."
One day, when Lavern was initially in the nursing home, John told me what a prize she has been for him. "For 25 years, she gave my mother a place in our home. I never asked. She offered the idea first. And for five years, she also took in her own mother. So for five years, both of them stayed with us. And she never complained -- not once."
"She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands."
For years, she cuffed all of our trousers, sewed on buttons, created Christmas stockings for all of us and created many "outfits," as we called them. Those stockings, created for all of the grandchildren, are still stuffed at Christmas with tools, toys, candy and dolls even as the grandkids have grown into their 30s. All of the stockings were hand sown by Grandma.
"She rises while still in the night, and distributes food to her household."
Lavern's incredible cooking has delighted us for years. On Sundays up until about a year ago, our entire family (20-25 individuals) gathered at their house. And she never prepared one entrÃ©e; it was always two, in case someone did not like one of the offerings. So, not just chicken and dumplings, but also pepper steak. My wife and I often held picnics in Sylvan Springs Park. One Sunday, when it rained, John and Lavern told our throng to come to their house, and 40 people picnicked in their home. Generosity unbounded.
"She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms."
This quote from Proverbs takes on a new meaning now. Since Lavern fell going into Mass two years ago, her physical strength has ebbed, but her spirit, pride and spunk remain. For many years she and John attended daily Mass together. Now 90, she can no longer go. John, 92, attends as often as he can considering Lavern's need for assistance. Their spiritual strength is reflected in the two mighty oaks rising majestically in their front yard.
"She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel."
I have always said that Lavern is too good to be true. During the time Mickey and I dated and during our married life, I have never heard her speak unkindness. Lately, life has powerfully challenged her equanimity and gentility. But the woman we once knew struggles to endure.
"Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her ..."
This is what we pray for now. Bless her, Lord. Attend to her. May she always know how intensely she is loved.
And so now we sing, not always in tune, but in truth: "Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her."
Jobst is semi-retired from St. Louis Catholic and public schools and currently works in the Parkway Schools' MOSAICS program and the Missouri Scholars Academy. He is a member of St. Paul Parish in Fenton. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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