Sunday, November 03, 2013

From Everlasting to Everlasting

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from my friend, Linda, about a gathering she attended at the care home where her aging mother lives. Linda's mother, Viola, was the lead teacher of the Beginner's class for years and years. She was one of those teachers who rarely took Sundays off, so the children had a familiar face present every Sunday. She was gentle and kind. So many children learned to love Sunday School while they were in her class. They began to glimpse the love God has for them by seeing it in her eyes.

Viola also directed Summer Vacation Bible School for many years. She did this back when our Bible School was two weeks long. I remember being dismayed when she retired from that responsibility, thinking that no one else would know how to do Bible School. She was the organizer, but she was also the kind face and loving attention giver to those children who found themselves too restless to be able to manage a whole morning in Bible School. They would accompany her in her tasks and still be learning, albeit a different, and maybe more important lesson. No matter how they behaved, they were loved and respected and valued.

Viola is now 96 years old. She has become forgetful, and communication is difficult for her. It has been quite a while since she has attended church. Her children visit her often and bring along items to help her remember happy times. They bring her beloved cat. She shows her emotions, but coherent sentences are more and more difficult.

So it was a surprise to Linda as she sat with her mother together with others from our church and two of our pastors, to have her mother clear her throat and announce that she didn't know how long her voice would hold out, but that she wanted to talk.

Linda took this picture of her mother.
 This is what Linda wrote in her email:  

She talked about teaching children. It mostly made sense, though it was not entirely connected. She talked for several minutes. Everyone was quiet, and I think quite amazed. She started out saying that when teaching children you need to let them do things themselves. It might be easier to do things for them, but it’s important to let them do it themselves. Then she went on to say that children do listen to their teachers, and that it’s important to have different people teaching so that they hear from more than one person. Her speech was kind of slow, and I thought she would stop a couple of times and then she kept going. Afterwards various people asked her questions about how long she taught children at FMC, etc. She didn’t know the answers, so I helped with some estimating. 

I love this story. It has been so long since Viola taught that Beginner's class, and we who are older and have attended since we were children are the only ones who remember her contribution to our lives. Yet the things that have been important to her throughout her life came to her clearly. Such a holy moment.

I've been memorizing Psalm 103. Much of it is about the goodness of God, the forgiveness and mercy and compassion God offers us. There is also a part about people.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him,
for he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for mortals, their days are like grass.
They flourish like a flower in the field.
The wind blows over it and it is gone
and it's place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him,
His righteousness to their children's children..."

Attending the church I grew up in has offered me a unique perspective. I remember so many people who were vital and important to our church, 'flourishing like flowers in the field', making us beautiful and fruitful, offering their wisdom and direction, and sometimes also their faults and their dissensions. But now, the wind has blown over them and they are gone...so many are gone...and so few that are still here, where their place was, remember them.

That is as it should be, I know. If we spent all our time trying to keep memories alive of people we've lost, we would not do the important things that are there for us to do. But still---Viola's work has shaped me, and I am shaping others because of her. Though many have forgotten her name, her wisdom and her faith and her heart live on in us. And because of what she said the other day, I'm reminded again of important things as I teach children.

Best of all, even if someday all of what she has done is forgotten, still
"from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him."

Viola will never be forgotten because God's love will always accompany her.

And so with each of us. We all want to have contributed something lasting, that will go on when we cease to be. Some of us may make it into history books. Most of us won't. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with us. We are remembered, and not only remembered, but loved. It is good.