My mother was born 100 years ago and went Home to be with Jesus at age 97. I always think of her when I read Psalm 92:12, 14: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree . . . they shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” My mother influenced me throughout my whole life. She also influenced our children, and grandchildren. She was affectionately called Beppe, the Frisian term for Grandma for the last twenty years of her life.
Our first grandchildren—twin boys—had a peculiar way of waving goodbye when they were toddlers. They didn’t wave with an open hand, they extended their thumb, forefinger, and middle finger but kept the other two fingers curled tight.
We all wondered why they did that until one day they were strapped into their car seats after visiting their Beppe. As their mom got behind the wheel she waved goodbye to Beppe who was standing by the front door waving goodbye, using only her thumb and two fingers as the boys waved back the same way. Aha! Mystery solved! My mom suffered from Dupuytren’s contracture, a condition in which the hand muscles that control the fingers thicken and shorten forcing the affected fingers to curl tightly.
Her influence, however, extended far wider than her manner of waving goodbye. Above all, she knew how to love. A small wall plaque she had brought with her from the Netherlands epitomized her home.
Waar liefde woont gebiedt de Heer zijn zegen. “Where love dwells the Lord bestows his blessing.” (based on Psalm 133)
Her love went far beyond her love for her extended family of six children, thirteen grandchildren and twenty-seven great grandchildren.
I was a little boy living in the enemy occupied Netherlands during the 2nd World War, when a young woman, very pregnant, slipped on ice while crossing the street in front of our house. My mom was out the door and by her side immediately. She was carried in and placed on our living room sofa while my mom called a doctor. She lived with us until her baby was born and she was able to walk home.
Years later, when our whole family emigrated to Canada, there was a long delay before passengers were allowed to board the ship. My mom heard a baby crying from hunger and saw a mother distressed because she didn’t have enough breast milk to feed her, and couldn’t get to her baggage to mix a formula. “Give me your baby,” my mom said, “I have enough milk for yours as well as for my own.” She sat on a suitcase in the middle of a crowded dock and breastfed the baby.
When she was 76 years old, she travelled to Brazil to attend the distribution celebration of the Canela partial Bible. When the Wycliffe plane landed and the doors opened, my mother climbed out and seeing the hundreds of Canelas gathered around, she exclaimed, “Oh, look at those lovely little children!” Spreading out her arms she waded into a group of Canela kids, wanting to hug them all.
And, of course, she loved Jesus. I didn’t realize until I was a grandpa myself how much she sacrificed when she encouraged my wife and me to obey God’s leading and go to Brazil, knowing we would take away her only three grandchildren, and she would not see them again for four years.
My Mom showed love by meeting the needs of the people around her. She provided food for Jews in hiding during the war. She fed and housed missionaries on furlough travel, sometimes for weeks at a time. In her final years in the senior’s home she befriended a nearly blind lady there and sat with her for hours showing her the pictures in large coffee books while she read the captions and descriptive paragraphs.
She took care of grandkids, and great-grandkids whenever there was a need. She loved them, and they loved her back.
Just as Jesus loves her and she loves Him back, now in a heavenly reality.