Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Remembrance

On Sunday we laid my mother-in-law's body to rest and held a celebration and memorial service for her. The service was beautiful, honoring Barbara and glorifying God. The highlight was my wife, Heather's, remembrance.

Remembrance of Barbara Strom

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.” It is an honor for me to stand here today and rise up and call my mother blessed. Over the last few weeks as I have sat by her bedside, I have reflected quite a bit on her life and things I have learned from her.

The story of my walk with Christ begins with her as she nurtured our faith in Christ by her example. From my earliest memories church was what our lives centered around. And I have a love for the body of Christ that was born from watching her serve it with joy. She taught Sunday school, volunteered with the youth and then found her niche keeping the nursery for Sunday school, every Sunday for over 20 years.

The thing that I have reflected on the most these past few weeks was her deep strength and faith. She did not have a particularly easy or comfortable life. As I think back – it was filled with struggles, As a single mom, she had to work very hard and she had some pretty hard trials, losing everything more than once. I knew where her strength came from because I can’t count the times I saw her in tears on her knees. Her faith and hope where in her Lord and she drew deeply from Him, she had joy, a resolve that whatever was happening God was working it for her good. I often wondered why, when she was so faithful to Him God allowed her to bear so much. God brought these verses to mind this last week as she was in hospice and I meditated on them every day: II Corinthians 4: 16-18. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outward body is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” My study bible notes that although his trials were not minor, in comparison to the eternal glory that would one day be his, Paul saw them to be mild and transitory. He viewed troubles as preparation for a great future reward for believers. The realization that , as I was watching my moms body wasting away right in front of me, inwardly she was becoming more and more alive was an incredible comfort and realizing though her life on earth might have been a struggle – that does seem momentary now and no eye can see or even imagine what glories she is experiencing now. She has the joy of her reward. The lessons I learned from her and where her strength lie have served me well in this last year.

My brother and sister and I all feel like we were given a gift in 3 days before she went to hospice. We knew things were not going to turn around – but she wasn’t ready to give up quite yet. So those three days we spent remembering and saying all that we wanted to say. I am so grateful God allowed us to have that. We remembered the close quarters we grew up in. We lived with my grandparents in a 2 bedroom house – they had one room and all four of us shared the other. Paige and Derrick slept in bunck beds and my mom and I shared a double bed. I slept with my arm around her and twirled her hair as I fell asleep. She reminded me in the hospital that I had told her once that if she ever decided to remarry I wasn’t moving – this was my spot. We had a wonderful day with my aunt one day –I heard so many stories of them growing up and my mom was so happy that day. That was really the last day she could communicate. It was a precious time. I asked my mom to tell me what her favorite memory was of her kids.
Paige – she remembered the time the two of you went on a women’s retreat together in Tampa. You remembered that too and said you felt like it was the first time the two of you connected. You did have some rocky times – but God took those and redeemed them. Mom said to me on one of those days – she was so proud of you that you had turned your life back over to Christ. That is what you rest in – His redemptive work in your life “the old is past away, He has made all things new” in you.
Derrick – she said that she remembered how when you were little you would always ask, “momma can I get you anything?” You always wanted to care for her. Even these past few weeks – you took care of everything for her… and us. You thought of everything - you have done that so many times over the years and carried so much of the burden for our family. I pray you will go to Him and take His yoke and learn from Him whose yoke easy and whose burden is light and find rest in Him.
When she got to her favorite memory of me – she said, “Heather, Heather, Heather, Heather – in every yearbook picture of you your mouth was always wide open.” Thanks mom! I asked her if she could think of something a little nicer – and she did. Shopping trips for homecoming dresses, wedding dresses.
Heidi – you know she loved you like her own daughter. She told me – she always got more information from you than from Derrick - and she loved you for that.
Paul – she loved you like her own son and was grateful for all the ways you served her. I teased her in the hospital and said – I think you loved him more than you loved me – every time we got in an argument – you always sided with him – to which she replied, “I call ‘em like I see ‘em”!
Jason – she loved that you called her “rainbow grandma”
Ryan – she loved being called Grams – and you started that. She loved your fun loving ways and is so proud of you. You remember her asking you in the hospital to trust and follow Jesus – she will be up in Heaven cheering you on as you do that – and we will be doing the same from down here.
Luke – she loved your tender heart
Emily – she loved your sweet disposition and thought you were such a little lady
Eli – she loved your sweet heart
Ethan – she loved your love for her and loved how you prayed for her every day
Ellie – she loved your little giggle. You brought her so much joy.

I felt like I was in the middle of something sacred the past week as I watched her have one foot in this world and one in the next. This tremendous ache and loss I feel has just made eternity come into sharper focus for me. We have the hope of heaven, but death is not what we were made for and a vivid reminder this isn’t the way things are suppose to be. Both the ache and the longing lead to the same desire for the day when all will be made right, when He will wipe away every tear from our eye, their will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. He will make all things new.

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