My mother recently passed away. Living in India, I didn’t make it home to be at her side as she passed from this life to her next. Nor could I be there to officiate at her funeral as I had my father’s. What follows is a note that I sent to my brother-in-law with a request that, if he saw an opportune point in his remarks, perhaps he could read it. In a few lines I think it summarizes the power of her life on mine in innumerable gifts of grace for which I can only be grateful.
It just doesn’t seem that long ago that we stood together at the service for my dad. And then together beside your dad. And then your mom. And now I deeply regret that I can’t assume my place beside you this morning. Our families have been sweetly intertwined, in joy and sorrow, now for over 35 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I think back over my mom’s life, I immediately go to Luke 10. It’s the very familiar story of when Jesus lands in the home of Martha, Lazarus, and Mary for an after-church dinner. It reminds me of my mom because during the first half of my remembering years, she was the poster girl for Martha. Running, rushing, wiping noses, setting records straight, and getting the exquisite mashed potatoes, roast beef, and pie served up tasty and warm whenever guests came. And even when they didn’t.
For Martha as well as my mom, behaving this way wasn’t just voluntary. It was an internal covenant, an undisputed law, a precept of those who know how life was supposed to be done right. And I’m sure that if my mom ever had any secret doubts over the perfection of Jesus’ teaching, it was when He sided with slothful, moony Mary instead of the dutiful older sister in her no-nonsense shoes. Martha.
But then something changed. It was after booting the chicks out of the nest—which would certainly have been reason enough. But it seemed different than a life-stage thing. I caught her reading. She inhaled books and I hadn’t even remembered she could read. Her Bible seemed to wear out especially quickly. So we replaced it. And the new one seemed to get creased, flappy and tired almost as fast. More than a few times I walked in and caught her praying. Sure, keeping a good house and maintaining the standards of her cooking remained her stock-in-trade. But along the way she became as much like Mary as she was Martha. Hard-working yet restful. Truth-telling yet tongue-tied by grace. Always persevering yet prayerful.
And in the end, it is this last trait that I will miss most. First with my dad and now with my mom, we have lost their last, faithful line of defense against the arrows and slings of the evil one. They prayed for us like they used to bundle us for winter blizzards. Daily, patiently, buttons, zippers and drawstrings, one by one, until all seven of us were wrapped and bundled for the windchill before us.
Just because Dad and now Mom have passed from this life, does that mean that their parental intercession is done? Perhaps not. We know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in heaven when we run out of words. If a member of the Trinity still has a need to pray, perhaps prayer will be part of our pastime as well. Maybe some in that great cloud of witnesses are far more than spectators.
So is our Martha/Mary/Mom interceding for us still? I really hope so.