The news of an old friend’s passing is surreal, isn’t it? I recently read an old letter of Irene’s that I’d tucked away. Suddenly she is gone –but I’ll never forget her.
Along with her husband Malcolm, Irene taught me Sunday school when I was a young teen. She helped me understand the word of God, and gave me a great incentive –a brand-new “Living Bible” — to memorize all of Isaiah chapter 40.
I still remember that sense of accomplishment, and how much I treasured the reward of a modern language Bible. (Yes, I cut my teeth on the KJV.)
Maybe Irene is the reason why Isaiah is still probably my favorite book of the bible. Still, it wasn’t just her teaching that impacted me.
What has impacted me most is simply her love.
Irene wasn’t content to put in her volunteer ministry hours at church and call it good. No, she pretty much adopted me and my two friends Denise and Teresa.
She didn’t have children of her own, so this motley trio of junior high girls became her “little ones,” the pet name we still fondly recall.
She would invite us to special dinners on Sunday afternoons. Sole fish and macadamia nuts. Fizzy drinks in frosted sapphire glasses with slender stems.
Irene treated us like royalty.
She put up with my teenage moodiness and immaturity, sometimes chuckling and patting my knee in the middle of my grumpy tirades, other times placing a gentle arm around my waist and giving a little squeeze.
She gave us the gift of acceptance. For junior highers, how huge is that?
We admired her, too. The lady had talent. She was an accomplished artist, and we loved getting to view the partly finished canvases of creations underway.
Choir practice was another time we got to see Irene. The sound of her rich alto voice filling the sanctuary with special solos still echoes in my mind. She inspired us.
And she was generous. To my great surprise, after I got married and had children, she gracefully captured three spirited carousel ponies on canvas to represent my boys.
One day, when I was in tears over a conflict with my oldest son, I cried out to God, “What does this child need from me?”
“Tight reins and sugar cubes,” came the answer.
Irene’s painting sprung to mind. Like ponies, my boys needed both boundaries and affirmation, and I realized Danny needed my encouragement.
Another time, after suffering a miscarriage when our youngest son was three, a friend suggested that I have another baby in order to heal emotionally.
I prayed. I thought of Irene’s painting again. Somehow, seeing those three ponies helped me be at peace with my family staying just the size it was.
I think Irene’s painting was commissioned by the Holy Spirit.
Today, it hangs in my “Nana” room, a gentle reminder of a warm and gracious woman.
Looking back, I’m sure that Irene carried pain in her soul. I just wasn’t mature enough to pick up on such things.
All I knew was that I could come to her just as I was, knowing she would love and accept me. Her home was a home away from home, a place I always felt special.
She truly earned the most honorable title I can think of, for Irene was a mother in Christ.
I want to be like her when I grow up.
So here’s the thing: Don’t discount the little ways you show love, honor and value to others.
Your simple acts of kindness impact others for a lifetime.
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