My mom left us to go be with Jesus 10 years ago today.
For those of you who first connected with Real Hope for Haiti in the last several years, I am very sorry you were not able to know my mother. Pick any superlative you’d like and put it in front of wife, mother, sister, friend, mentor, missionary, or nurse. She was so many things to so many people. I marvel that even now, 10 years after her physical death, we still have people in the United States (and in Haiti) talk to us about her impact on their life. And it isn’t an “I understand your pain and am sorry for your loss” sort of politeness. It is more of a “I feel our pain and am sorry for our loss” because Gretchen/ Madame Zach meant so very much to them as well. Mom impacted those she met on the deepest levels and in the most meaningful ways.
In Matthew 25 it says, at the time of judgement, the King will say to the righteous, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” After the King says this, they righteous reply as though they are shocked, asking when they did this. I’d like to think that this wouldn’t surprise my mom. She’s be like, “Yeah, I thought that was you! I was looking for you.”
See, the thing about my mom is that she was utterly convinced every person bore the image of God, and as such, each individual deserved respect, dignity, mercy, and love. The empathy she possessed allowed her to be laser-focused in identifying those hurting and delivering timely compassion through Gospel-saturated words and acts of service. My mom had a knack of being present at the lowest point/ toughest time in other people’s lives. It was providential, either God crossing her path with theirs or simply God hardwiring my mom in such a way that she recognized when people were in a battle. And when she saw a person struggling she would never roll her eyes and walk away, but rather, she would roll up her sleeves and mix it up in the nitty-gritty. Patient as she worked, humming songs to the Lord, she did all she did with joy, as unto the Lord.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” If you were ever a patient at the clinic, if you were ever a supporter who received a thank you note, if you were ever befriended by her, you don’t need for me to explain how this verse connects with my mom. By the grace of God she was able to heal many sick bodies with her skills as a nurse. Also, by the grace of God, she was able to be used of God to help heal many broken hearts.
Certainly, I want to acknowledge that what fueled my mom was a passion for Jesus Christ and a relentless desire to share the love of God that had been shed abroad in her own heart. She would credit her own mother and father for who she became as an adult. She would express gratefulness for her two sisters and brother, hear aunts and uncles for loving her as they did. She would thank many people like Opal Cook, Helen Hawkins, and Debbie Martin who helped her along early in her faith journey. She would express her thankfulness for Pastor Brad Brizendine teaching her the Word of God and the power of the Spirit and allowing her the opportunity to serve the church and develop her gifts. She would would give a big ole’ “Hallelujah!” to my dad for fanning the flame of God in her heart, encouraging her to pursue God with all she had and being willing to literally sell everything they owned and dedicate their lives to serving the poor. She would say how thrilled she was that her two daughters chose to obey God as He led them to serve the underserved in Haiti alongside her each day. She would say how much delight and satisfaction it gave her to share life with her grandsons. She would make sure you knew how very much the people of Haiti had taught her. She would point to God above and acknowledge that each of these wonderful gifts came from the Father above and she treasured them all.
She rests now in the presence of the Father above, for which I am grateful. Real Hope for Haiti’s purpose is “to share hope for this life and the life to come.” We are a distinctly Christian organization who believe in the hope that extends beyond this life. Often as a young person, I considered the power of the blood of Christ and His work on the Cross. I knew the Resurrection indicated that Christ had defeated death, but in my youth, being forgiven for my sins was kind of the whole deal. Death had not come near my door before my mom died. When she died I was saddened. Sadness gave birth to despair. I remember sitting on a bus stop bench in New Orleans about a month after my mom had died and pulling out my Bible and reading 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter discusses the Resurrection of Christ and its implications for believers. God not only forgives our past but provides hope for our future. My hopeless turned back to hope on the bench that day. Thanks be to God forever. God doesn’t just deliver us from a past but her prepares for us a future.
Since then, whenever I miss my mom too much for words, I find myself back in 1 Corinthians 15 and peace comes like a river. Kind of cool that the chapter ends with a verse that describes my mom in a nutshell, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
My challenge to you on this day is to take 1 minute out of your day to think about someone who had helped you achieve your dream, helped to make you who you are, and after thinking about them for 1 minute, take time to call them and let them know how very much they mean to you. And if they are no longer with us, then take a minute to pray and thank God for that person and how He used them powerfully in your life.
Feel gratefulness in your gut today, because for it to be more than a fleeting or passing gratefulness, it has to be deep down inside you, giving you that good type of weightiness that grounds you. That is the type of gratefulness my mom had that energized her to work as diligently as she did. The type of gratefulness that lingers so long and hard that a feeling turns into an action. I am very proud my dad and my sisters have continued the clinic work that my mom started years ago, and I look forward to joining them soon. They have persevered over the years the same way my mom did: one foot in front of the other, day by day, eyes on the King.
***Thank you for taking the time to read this post about someone dear to our hearts. I am rewarding you with some pictures of my dad when he was younger and Lori and Licia when they were children.
One more story that always reminds me of mom occurred in Haiti back in 1999. We use a missionary flight service called Agape Flights. They have a central office located in Port-au-Prince that is opened 1 day per week. My mom loved to mail out letters and received letters. She was ill one day and I set out on public transportation to get the mail for her. I rode on a tap-tap to the office. Along with some letters that day were some small boxes, so I grabbed a mailbag and loaded it up. I hopped on the back of a small dump truck and rode it up to our house at the time. I was hot and dirty and as nasty as could be. I drug that bag of mail into my mom who was still sick in bed. As I talked with her, I wiped my sweat off with a dirty handkerchief that I had been using that day. It was soaked with sweat and smeared with dust. She took it from me and put it in the drawer of her nightstand. Each time I would come into her room to talk with her for the next few years she would open the drawer so I could see the handkerchief and she would raise her eyebrows at me, kind of bobbing them up and down. Within this simple bobbing of the eyebrows she was able to communicate so, so much.
A mother’s love is a mother’s love. There isn’t anything else like it in this world.