Let's Run the Race
When Mindy was approaching her 30th birthday, she decided to get fit and run a marathon. This child of mine is an overachiever but she had never been much of an athlete. She excelled in academics but missed becoming the valedictorian of her class at Ridgefield High School because she was awarded an A- in PE. She managed to pay for college without any student loans and ably represented her college speech team in Rome while she was running a business and preparing for a wedding, but she claims that she was not the first child chosen when sports teams sided up. The 26 mile marathon was going to be a challenge. However, as she explained, “There is really nothing physically wrong with me.”
And so the training began. It was long and arduous and so was the race. Her goal was to finish the marathon and to do it during the space of time when the score keepers were still recording finishing times. She prevailed.
Her father and I were perched high on the steps of a nearby building in downtown Portland, Oregon when I saw her in the distance approaching the end of the race. As she crossed the line and succeeded in her quest, I put my head in my hands and sobbed.
My mother was born at home in tiny Beebetown, Ohio in 1916 to a truck farmer and a German housewife. She learned to love God and to work hard from her parents, but they were very practical and there was not a great amount of love expressed. My mother lamented that her birthday was always ignored. Finally she determined that she would approach the day by announcing that it was her birthday and she would enjoy being wished a happy one.
She did not leave the state until she was 18 years old when she left to attend Philadelphia School of the Bible in Pennsylvania. It was there that she met my father, a gifted man who would go on to join Wycliffe Bible Translators. There he would work on translating the Bible into Comanche and would ultimately become the Field Administrator and Translation Consultant in Alaska. In the words of my mother speaking about her future husband from Reflections from a Mother’s Heart, “I realized the great potential he had. He was a good public speaker. My talents were limited and I felt I could best serve as mother and house wife.”
This humble woman was indeed a great server. She served everyone and she served well. She served meals to her family and to Comanche Indians and to guest workers and to anyone who stopped by; she served her family by scrubbing clothes in an old ringer washing machine and hanging them on the clotheslines strung between joists in the dirt walled basement of our Alaska frontier home, she served by sewing dresses and shirts cut from flour sacks and making stylish coats from oversized hand-me-downs. She literally never sat down without work in her hands; socks to darn, laundry to fold and clothes to mend. She loved and served God and others with every skill she possessed. My mother insured that her children’s birthdays were always celebrated and we were loved and embraced. She mostly toiled in obscurity and without the praise that was given to my dad. She once stated that the biggest contribution she made in life was to assist my father and to raise all 4 of her children to love and serve God.
It was especially disturbing then when my beloved 90 year old mother descended increasingly into dementia as Alzheimers took its hold. She still served; folding imaginary loads of laundry and reaching for a phantom basket to hold them all. Her hand would mimic the precise actions required in mending as she wielded a needle on an invisible garment. Delusions became a big issue. She told disturbing and frightening stories about events happening to those she loved the most. She was convinced that my spouse, whom she adored, had been evicted by me to dwell in the shed he had built to store fire wood. (Amazingly, as a gift from God, she never failed to recognize and remember each of her children and grandchildren by name and by sight.) In her delusions, she was crowned queen and there was a great coronation ceremony. She prowled the halls of the lovely home where she resided at night and was known to enter other resident’s rooms.
With the duration of the disease unknown and the future offering only a frightening and uncertain path, it was actually a severe mercy when a diagnosis was made that would lead to her imminent death. We were heartbroken but grateful that her suffering would be contained. Many of her children and grandchildren gathered around the bed side to provide support, offer prayers, and say goodbye. In her final days, this remarkable woman rallied from an apparent coma in her sick bed to sit up and acknowledge her granddaughter Marci, who had made the journey down I-5 to see her. Mom grinned and exclaimed, “Why, Marci’s here!”
She was primarily non responsive and many hours were spent in reflection and the sharing of memories. She lingered through days and nights and my siblings and other loved ones verbally released her to make the journey that would result in a crown, one that mattered for all eternity. When the end came, she left this world without struggle or fanfare. As Mom breathed her last breath, I was struck with a vision that comforts me still.
I saw my mother cross the finish line with her arms lifted high in victory and celebration. A huge crowd filled a vast amphitheater and the cheers and joy of spectators filled the air. My heart swelled as she strode forward to receive the rich reward that awaited her. She received a hero’s welcome as she finished the race.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1