There’s a story we tell in the family about our mom. One time, when she was living in Magdalena, hours away by car from the nearest cellular tower much less town or city, they were obliged to use a helicopter to take her to Albuquerque’s heart hospital. It was a tense situation, to be sure. The EMTs who were taking her to the airport, in an attempt at levity, told her they were Marines just back from a tour of duty, so they didn’t want any trouble from her. The two of them together easily weighed four times our mom’s weight.
Our father piped in: “You be careful now; my wife was a second lieutenant in the Marines back before you were even born!” Suddenly the two men stopped, snapped to attention, and saluted: “SEMPER FI, MA’AM!” Everyone who knows our mom understands why this is amusing; mom possessed a particular quiet determination and was not one to throw her weight around.
Her bedrock for this was her faith and her community. In 2004, when I returned to Lebanon, I now know there were many years of worry ahead for her. When I would talk to her about my life there, and how difficult it was at times, she would often reply with a hymn, reflecting her lifetime as a pastor’s daughter, and the years she spent singing in choir. I once wrote her a poem for Mother’s Day that referenced these hymns whose melodies were always there, constantly there, just under her breath, and how reassuring I found them.
When I returned last year from Beirut and was living with her and my sister, I would from time to time take her to service here, even though my own faith be different. She would often see this as an imposition on me, and I was always quick to correct her: The fellowship and community to be found here was inspirational to me in ways she couldn’t imagine.
Beyond that, her stoic patience and understanding had set an example for me that guides me to this day. Her active faith defines for me in no small way how I see life, and living life. In the room where I am staying at my sister’s is a wall hanging which reads: “Bloom where you are planted”. This sums up mom’s life in no small way. I hope I might live up to her example.
So I would like to express the family’s gratitude to this congregation and to this church for being such a big part of her life and thus of our lives. It is a great comfort to return here, to see so many familiar faces, and to remember mom with you all, in this place of fellowship and community. Thank you; and God’s peace and blessings upon you.