Monday, April 6, 2009

Honoring the Living

You will notice that my last few posts were about some very dear people whom I wanted to honor on the occasion of their passing. When I shared these posts with a friend from work, she gave me some positive feedback along with some helpful advice: “I wish someone would write similar memories of me when I die. Come to think of it, we should write about the people we love and care for BEFORE they die, not after. It’s then a testament of their value which they can appreciate while living”

Good advice indeed! I got to put it into practice the other day, on the very special occasion of my mother in-law’s 90th birthday, which we celebrated in the fellowship hall of Rosebank United Methodist Church in Cecil County, Maryland. As the cake was being served, I got to share the following:

When I was growing up my father didn’t hesitate to give me advice about life, and I benefited much from it. One pearl of wisdom I will never forget is when he told me how to look for a wife:

“When you think you are in love with a girl,’ he said, “and you want to know whether she is the one you should marry, here is a clue. Take a look at her mother. See what kind of person she is and how she relates to her husband and children. Chances are, that is what her daughter will be like twenty or thirty years down the road.”

Now I was obviously already quite taken with Susan before I had a chance to get to know you well, but once I did, I was sold. The first things I noticed were more superficial in nature, but not unimportant, such as the wonderful family meals, with the home made bread and home-made apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. “If Susan ends up becoming anything at all like her mom,” I thought, “I can get used to this.”

But in time, I noticed more profound and important traits: such as your wonderful hospitality, how your home was always open; your faithfulness and service to your church over many years; your love for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and indeed, toward your entire extended family. I particularly remember the love and care you showed to Grandpop, Aunt Liddy, and many others, as you honored the Lord by honoring your elders.

But what has impressed me the most is your calm and joyful determination, even in the midst of trials and adversity, how you take life as it comes, always believing as the Scripture says, that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Even from your younger days, you did not let the results of polio keep you down, but you went on to enjoy and live your life to the fullest. You exuded joy. It seemed that both you and dad were always too busy enjoying life to be kept at home. Susan and I would always joke that when we wanted to come up to Rising Sun to see my parents, we did not need to call ahead, because it was almost a sure bet that we would find them at home. With you and dad, on the other hand, we always had to call to set up an appointment, because who knows where you were or what you were doing: seeing friends, serving in some church related function, or driving off to who knows where to see a place where you had never been before.

Even when you had your stroke a couple years ago, your joy and determination were
inspiring. I will never forget when the nurse came into your hospital room and, after taking your vital signs, asked the routine and obvious questions such as “Why did you come to the hospital?”

“Because my son called 911,” you replied with a hint of annoyance. “I told him not to call, but he did anyway.”

Afterwards, you showed that same calm determination during your rehabilitation at the hospital and in the nursing home. I must confess after the fact, I did not have a whole lot of faith that you would ever be able to return home again, but that only goes to show again that I underestimated Libby Hilaman, and here you are! Even now, as you and dad have learned to live with some limitations, (For example, Susan and I no longer need to call ahead if we want to come and see you! ), you still exude joy and determination.

Oh, and by the way, after all these years, Susan not only treats me well with home made apple pies and breads and sumptuous meals, but she is very much like her mom in many other wonderful ways. I chose well!

Happy 90th Birthday, Mom! I love you very much!

1 comment:

Tetamay said...

Leo: Libby must be proud to have a son in law who honors and loves her with these words. I enjoyed getting to know her through your love.