Today is my grandmother's birthday. I'm thinking of her with a smile wishing I could give her a huge birthday hug, sing a joyful rendition of the birthday son, watch her blow out candles and sit next to her as we enjoyed a piece of birthday cake. It's been nearly 5 years since she passed away, and so the only way I can honor her today is in my memories.
Two days ago, a dear family friend, Mrs. Jean E. Mitchell, passed away very suddenly. That afternoon I visited with my grandfather. I spoke of how I already missed Mrs. Jean E. He stared off for a minute and then replied, "I still miss your grandmother as much today as I did the day she died. Not a day goes by without me thinking of something about her or a memory we shared."
I understand ... thoughts and reminders of my grandmother are frequent. I suppose it has been a decade or more since she did any real cooking, but I am often surprised not to see her there in the kitchen when I step through the door of the house where she lived. On Sunday mornings I hear her voice in the familiar hymns of my childhood, her strong and mellow alto still singing in the back of my mind. Four years ago I bought a bottle of her favorite perfume, and whenever I wear it all day long I feel somehow as though she herself has given me a hug and the scent has lingered with me.
One of the most precious memories things that happened to me occurred on my birthday two years ago. I opened up a birthday card and it was signed with my grandmother's name. I blinked and then read it again. Sure enough, my grandmother had signed the card. And about the time I began to think I was going crazy, I noticed a note penned on the opposite side of the card ... a sweet message from my friend Jean E. Mitchell. She wrote how she thought I might appreciate receiving a "recycled" card that my grandmother had sent to her one birthday years ago and how she still had such sweet memories of my grandmother. The tears began to flow and I felt this surreal love around me ... the precious rememberance of my grandmother's love expressed to me in a tangible way through the love of another friend.
In a few minutes I'll be leaving to go to the visitation for Mrs. Jean E. I've been thinking of her a lot the past two days ... all the things she taught me and how her life was such an example of being a godly woman. And today as I've remembered my grandmother, I'm amazed at how many qualities these two women shared ... virtues described in Proverbs 31.
These are a few of the lessons I've learned from both of these women:
~She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (v. 12)
I never heard my grandmother or Mrs. Jean E. speak ill of their husbands. Both of them were proud of the men they married, spoke highly of their strengths and successes, supported their husband in all of his endeavors, and radiated love and admiration for their spouse.
~She ... works with eager hands. ... She sets about her work vigorously. (v. 13, 17)
Both ladies were hard workers, actively serving at home and at church. Mrs. Jean E. kept the church sign with a current message, decorated bulletin boards, helped with functions of all sorts. I never knew her not to be busy ... it could even be hard to keep up with her when she walked! My grandmother seemed more easy-going in her approach and yet she was always busy doing something ... cooking, visiting those who were sick or grieving, helping behind the scenes with church functions, always there and always ready to help.
~She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (v. 20)
My grandmother taught me so much about reaching out to those who needed food, clothes, money or love. She gave generously and was always aware of those in need. Mrs. Jean E. also was a generous woman, who gave freely of what she had.
~She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (v. 25)
One of the things I recall most about my grandmother is her laugh. Mrs. Jean E. laughed often as well. Inner joy is a gift from God and both of these precious ladies had that gift. They were women mature in their faith, bold and courageous in their lifestyle, joyful and peaceful ... they were inspirations to me.
~A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (v. 29)
So many times I've heard it said that the best witness for Christ is our day-to-day life. My grandmother and my friend were women who lived for Christ every day. They took care of His people. They took care of His creation. They gave of their love and their possessions. They honored Christ with their eager willingness to serve. They feared the Lord and so whenever I remember them and the things that they taught me I am blessed again.
Although I know that I will continue to miss both of these women, their deaths do not represent the end. My much-loved grandmother and my dear friend will continue to live on in my heart and memory. More importantly, their souls will live on for eternity in the presence of the Lord they loved so much with their time on earth.