Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. — Psalm 116:15
She was a strong woman. Perhaps that came from being the oldest of seven—no doubt a rowdy bunch. Perhaps it came from growing up during The Great Depression and having to work hard at home. Perhaps it came from having two pretty strict parents who expected a lot from their kids.
She was strong even in the days when it wasn’t the “norm” to be a strong woman. She got her business degree in 1933 and left rural Virginia at age nineteen to head to Washington, D.C. for that much-desired government job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because she came from a devout Methodist family, her first priority was to find a good church to attend—and that’s where she met my Dad, at Mt. Vernon Place Methodist Church. They married in 1939—and not long after that she became a military wife.
Their duty stations aren’t recognizable on lists of military installations today—long since closed. They would include Hondo Army Air Field in Texas and Romulus Army Air Field in Michigan, and the stories she would tell of these locations make me think that our experience in the military was very “cushy” in comparison. She would make long-distance moves alone with small babies when there was no interstate highway system, no air-conditioning, no disposable diapers, no car seats and no McDonald’s. And the Army had to come up with some unusual ways to create maternity wards close to the bases—hence the reason my brother was born in a psychiatric hospital (at least that’s the way the story goes).
Since rationing was a reality during World War II, she would tell stories of how she would make sure that there was enough coal for heat for the times that Dad would be able to come home between flights. Similar stories about tires, food items, and ice were shared—but the things I remember most were the stories about her friends.
Some things never change—what would we ever do without the friends that we make during our military assignments? When family is far away, it’s the friends we make in “remote” locations who are there to see us through the tough times of military service—and who help celebrate the joyful times. My Mom’s friends became her real “family.” She had friends who got her to church, who helped with babysitting, who gave her advice about new locations, who helped when help was needed—and who took the edge off the loneliness which accompanied war-time service. My Dad was a great letter-writer, but the reality was that communication in those days was sporadic at best.
I still have those letters. They are in “The Trunk.” My parents’ letters are filled with the small details of life in those days—and even some romance. They would often write each other of dreams for their life together when the War was over—before Dad eventually got out of the military and became a civil servant in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, then a pharmacy professor, until he died in 1977. The skills which she developed in forming friendships during her military days served her well as they moved our family around the country in those years which followed. Each and every year she faithfully sent out the “Christmas letter” to all of those friends, and we even traveled to keep those relationships vibrant. I watched that tradition, and I learned. Maintaining friendships takes intentionality. And it’s worth it.
Some of those friends of hers are still alive today, but very few. My Mom just passed away, ninety-four years old and weak. The strong woman that she had been succumbed to the damage caused by strokes, and the Lord took her home. Her faith was strong to the end, and many a night my husband and I tucked her in with a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me.” During her last days our dear nurses referred to her medical condition as “non-responsive,” but she would join us with a word or two of those familiar verses from deep within her memory. Her faithful friends were able to say “good-bye” and “I love you” to her thanks to the modern technology of speaker phones.
Looking back, I remember that when she would come to visit us during each assignment—all over the world—she would reinforce our relationships with our friends by joining into their lives as well. She was “Grandma” to more than just our kids, and a great chocolate-chip-cookie-baker and cinnamon-roll-supplier to blocks of military housing. She knew that our friends were important and would be our “family” during most of our military career. As we mourn her death, we are not alone as she knew our friends and loved them.
But most importantly, she knew and loved the Lord. Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior, and we know that today she is in heaven with Him, with my Dad, and with the saints in Glory. Our son flew home from his overseas military assignment to join with our family at her funeral last week. He wove Scripture together for this beautiful prayer which he shared at the closing of her service:
Dear Lord, we thank You for the opportunity today to celebrate the life of my Grandma. Thank You for the blessing that each of us had—to know her and experience her love and encouragement for us as a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, a teacher, and most of all, a friend. We praise and thank You that “You created her inmost being, You knit her together in her mother’s womb.” Indeed, “she was fearfully and wonderfully made,” and “all the days ordained for her were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” We rejoice that throughout her life, “You searched her and knew her…You knew when she sat and when she rose; You perceived her thoughts from afar…You discerned her going out and lying down…You were familiar with all her ways.” Her skills and talents, her spirit and love, her encouragement and faithfulness that blessed us—all of these things were fashioned and given by You. And we are thankful that throughout all the victories and trials of life, You are always there—“Your hand always guided her, Your right hand surely held her fast.” So tonight we celebrate my Grandma’s life and rejoice for her “work produced by faith, her labor prompted by love, and her endurance inspired by hope in You our Lord, Jesus Christ.” By and through Your grace, she “fought the good fight, she finished the race, and she kept the faith. . . now there is in store for her the crown of righteousness, which You, O Lord, will award to her on that day.” And all of this is possible, through the love and gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who though He knew no sin, became sin for us, gave Himself up on the cross, and then conquered death so that even though death still takes us from this life, by faith, we may live with You, the lover and creator of our souls, through all eternity. Thank You for redemption, thank You for grace, thank You for unending love, and thank You for the gift of all of these born out in the life of my Grandma. “For from You and through You and to You are all things. To You be the glory forever! Amen.”
These verses shared from Psalm 139, 1 Thessalonians 1, 2 Timothy 4, 2 Corinthians 5, and Romans 11 were ones she knew well. We have her Bible, well-worn and well-loved. They say that a worn-out Bible is the sign of a person who is not. For years that would have been true of my Mom. But her days were numbered, and since God’s timing is always perfect—He took her home. Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of my Mom. She was a great military wife—and a great Mom. To You be the glory forever!
Questions to Share:
1. Look around you—which of your friends in the military do you think you will continue to keep up with in the years ahead?
2. Take a moment to pray and thank God for the gift of these special people in your life.