A woman of strength & dignity…
My husband’s mom passed away a few days ago.
As I read the Word recently, several verses jumped out at me:
Proverbs 17:9 Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
Proverbs 18: Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.
Proverbs 18:4 Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.
Proverbs 18:6 Fools words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating.
Proverbs 18:14 The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?
Proverbs 18:21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Proverbs 19:11 Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.
Proverbs 19:20 Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.
We have my husband’s mom’s funeral today, and I’ve spent copious hours putting together the 30-minute slide show for the gathering after the service. As I sought out photos of the grandchildren, many from Rose’s own albums, I realized something amazing about this woman.
I’ve never seen her angry, or get her feelings hurt.
I’ve known her for almost 30 years, and absent from literally any of our interactions is anger, hurtful words, or accusation.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t issues, but when there were, she wasn’t upset, she approached things calmly, asking questions, and simply stating the facts as she saw them without judgment. And never with emotion. No blaming. Just “here’s what happened,” and waited to hear the other person’s perspective. She literally wasn’t ever offended. She went into situations open-minded, eager to simply interact, solve the issues, and learn.
I think back to my own mothering, and what a positive influence she had. Not being around babies growing up, I remember being so nervous when I had my first, and how she was always calm. When Jim and I had our first child, she helped me through countless troubles with breastfeeding. Everything that could go wrong for me did, but she was always helpful and calming.
When Adam was about four months old, I went back to work part-time. She called me and gave me advice that forever impacted my parenting. She said, “Nina, I know you are nervous about leaving Jim with Adam tonight, and I know you haven’t asked me about this, but I’m going to tell you something important. If your child is alive when you get home, that’s good enough.”
“What?” I couldn’t imagine what she meant.
“He’s not going to do things the way you do. If you criticize him for not doing things ‘right,’ you will have a dad who doesn’t know his teenagers in fifteen years. He will give up because he will feel inadequate. If your child is alive when you get home, that’s good enough.”
Talk about expectation-changing advice!
I had spent two days using the breast pump to gather enough milk for the evening out (I was teaching at night). Jim knew enough about what to do already so I didn’t bother him with instructions, just told him where the bottle was and when I thought the baby might be hungry again.
And I left for work.
About fifteen minutes out, I realized I had forgotten my supply kit for teaching. I turned around, drove back, walked in, and found our four-month-old sitting in his high chair with a few teething cookies. The milk sat on the counter. My husband stood at the stove, dealing with pasta and sauce.
I confess I wanted to tell him what to do, to criticize, as I knew Adam wouldn’t be drinking the milk I made… I heard Rose’s voice in my head… If your child is alive when you get home, that’s good enough…
I picked up the supply kit next to the kitchen table, “I forgot my kit,” I said, smiling, biting my tongue, refusing to comment on the scene in front of me. I turned and walked out of the house, and then spent the rest of the drive to work freaking out because of the hard-earned (liquid gold) bottle of breast milk sitting on the counter…
On my drive home, I heard her voice again, and set my expectation on “alive.” That is reasonable. Anything could happen, and for me to worry would have been a waste of time anyway. The same bad bunch of “what ifs” could happen on my watch as well, I reasoned to myself. I walked in and asked Jim how it went.
“We had so much fun,” he said. He gave me the list of books they read, toys they played with, and then he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “He didn’t eat much, and I know you spent a lot of time making that bottle and were worried about having enough. I’m really sorry! I didn’t time making my dinner and his, and ended up giving him cookies trying to tide him over till I was done making mine, because I had this notion we would eat at the same time. Next time I think I’ll just feed him first.”
I was shocked. And relieved. I literally didn’t have to do anything, say anything, correct, etc. In looking back, I realize she did more than coach an outcome that helped connect her son to his children over the years – she taught me to be more laid back, allow room for the Holy Spirit to work, and to let other people have their own relationships with my children. It was a defining moment for me in my parenting.
Silence is golden…
What I realized this morning and over the last few days while reading Proverbs, is the wisdom and modeling that came from her set the tone for her relationships with our family. I never once saw her raise her voice at anyone unless she was calling them inside for dinner. Even in her interactions with her adult children, her husband, and Jim’s and my kids, peace ruled the day.
I realized that she modeled much not just for grand-parenting, mothering, or being a wife, but literally what is needed in all relationships. I know she wasn’t perfect, and I’m sure she made mistakes.
What I see now is something so crucial to the success of all relationships – the lack of outbursts did so much in protecting trust. In not taking offense and assuming the best, she didn’t have any negative interactions that destroyed trust between us. She thought the best of all, even when there was a problem, so much so that we didn’t have anything to reconcile.
I wonder if more of us handled each other that gently, that respectfully, if we wouldn’t have fewer painful situations to fix? If our relationships could be healthier because we weren’t giving voice to the accuser, devouring each other with words best left unsaid? I’m not saying to avoid conflict, but rather to approach each other assuming the best, that there is something we don’t know, and we just need to ask questions to facilitate understanding.
That could change everything for so many.
I don’t know about you, but I have places in my life where I am tempted to take things personally, to make them about me instead of simply asking questions, assuming there is something I don’t know. I’m generally pretty good about giving people the benefit of the doubt, but given this powerful A-Ha! wrapped up in the celebration of this beautiful woman’s life, I want to do better.
The verses below epitomize who she is to us all, and inspire me to continue growing calm, peace-filled parenting, marriage, and all my relationships. In looking back, I credit her deep love for God and us all, especially her lack of taking things personally – I never once saw her lecture or blame, and she seemed to expect a logical explanation no matter what was happening.
She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
May we be more respectful and kind to each other, giving the benefit of the doubt, allowing for the unknown to reveal itself as we make space for the Holy Spirit to do what He wants in His time. This is my prayer for us all today.
You will be missed, Rose.
I miss you already.
Love to you,
In memory of our Rose… (her favorite color was yellow, as were many of her roses she grew)