It really was a day like any other day. The 90-year-old was up, cleaning up our apartment, straightening out our life – and incidentally hers – and moving on in it until those precious celebratory evening hours at the home of our oldest daughter: telling life stories, remembering shared adventures, thinking of each child and grandchild in our wonderful family.
Our eldest, the retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant, now on Florida’s east coast with his wife, watching dolphins play through field glasses; of our second daughter, the front-line nurse, living through the pandemic with Covid-19 so close you could touch it. Of the youngest of our daughters, our artist, mothering her college-student son while meeting the world at the end of a check-out line.And our youngest son, now a Virginian, with a new house and a new job near the heart of America.
Even of our foster son from Viet Nam, who still counts us as family. And “the oldest daughter” herself, having prepared wonderful stew for four and presented an art-piece birthday cake.
It was all about love – of a person absolutely critical to us all, who birthed each one of these five children, and spent her life serving them, opening doors of possibility to them, sitting by the fireside at Ossipee and listening to nascent dreams spilling out and offering the encouragement only a wise mother can.
It was rehearsing the answers to “How do I love you? Let me count the ways...” And hearing again the deep reasons, the traits and “habits of the heart” that have built love into the lives of each child, now gray and grown, with their children to think about.
It is something to even get to grow old – with another dear to you, in a lifetime of children, and challenging adventures in places far and near. In the first little town among Berkshire hills. Among people of faith who both watched this important, wise young woman, and learned from her, but grew their love learned from their own years. All the years of adventure among the lives of people, even as she taught them and shared her life with them. Miracles of relationships!
And, as God would have it, adventures that called our little partnership out across the world – even into the dark lands of the African Genocide and the broken hearts it left behind. And she – this 90-year-old in only her vital 50s and 60s, and then 70s and 80s, that got her to 90- trusted God to show her what to do, how to heal hearts, how to mend broken lives, and hold out Jesus’ love which was the healing balm.
Upon arrival in Rwanda she asked God why He had brought her there and heard His answer: “I have brought you here to ask their forgiveness for what you and your people of the West did to divide them from each other.”
She taught all of us who were with her about ministry on your knees; washing feet, holding sobbing souls, standing by, being, Jesus’ light.
Our whole Manual for Retreat Leaders she wrote, designed the progression, remembered the scriptures needed, told the stories that would help fellow leaders and see how to do the delicate thing that became our life.
She never took credit for the genius of her creation. She turned away thanks and praise. She was utterly humble. She learned forgiveness early and became one of its greatest teachers. And in her own daily life, with its hurts and heartaches, she never held a grudge. She lived forgiveness, the Christian way.
I suppose that’s how she got to be 90, by forgiving many. Until some caught on and realized what an innate and God-sent teacher she was.
Just before 90, she posed a Christian Visitors ministry of house and home visits between white and black churches. It comes from Africa. But it’s working already to make friends in churches here.
She is a wise one, a “Lady of God” as a woman in our residence has described her. Quiet and humble, but following when Jesus calls.
She is ripe and blossoming in her old age, as scripture says. Her days are quiet, but exciting, as her Lord finds more and more use for her.
What a good way to live out your days. Doing the work of the Lord you love. It is an example that blesses me every step of the way.
Old ladies and old men can influence others still, to step out, trying new ways of Gospel-bearing; and new ways to be bold for Jesus. Look for the right one – new or old for you – And KEEP GOING.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES