Heaven Scent: A Eulogy for a Prayer Warrior

Memorial Day. A traditional day of remembrance. Flowers are placed in cemeteries. Honor is offered for our country’s fallen soldiers. Flags are flown with pride. And a few burgers are grilled for friends. Solemnity intertwined with celebration. Kind of like a funeral.

This past Tuesday, I attended a funeral for the mother of my friend Mary. Her mother, also named Mary, was 94 and some might say it was time. But it’s always sad to lose a loved one, especially a parent. The service was beautiful and reverent. A ritual and spiritual reminder of what followers of Christ live and hope for in this life.

My friend wrote and read a eulogy for her mother. It was so beautiful. So inspiring. So appropriate for Memorial Day–a day that seems fitting to also honor the prayer warriors in our lives.

From Mary~

“One of my first memories of mom was her kneeling at her bed praying. For most of us, all that we say and all that we do will someday fade away. Not many people are recorded in history or have memoirs written. Mom is like that. The meals prepared and set at the table have been consumed – her piano playing has ended. The stories we hold dear to our hearts today will likely be lost.

But mom gave us more than what we can see and taste. Mom prayed. I have asked mom how did you get through your marriage; how could you live at the nursing home and not go crazy. Her answer was consistent. Prayer. Her rosary was never far away. I even saw her hold it while she slept at the hospital. Her life may fade, but her prayers will not.

In prayer we come to God trusting he can hear when we can’t see him. We believe he hears because he’s greater than we are. We believe he answers because of the hope we have.

I’ve taken classes on prayer and I’ve taught prayer. I’ve done research on the rosary. One thing I learned is that rosaries were assembled by whatever was available. The beads have been fashioned by shells, seeds and even rose petals. Some rosaries are still made from roses. I love the thought of a fragrance of prayer left on fingers after holding rose beads. That’s what mom’s legacy is for us… the residue of the fragrance of prayer. Prayer that loves protects hopes and directs. Thanks, mom for that gift to all of us.”

Mary G. Lehman, 1921-2015

Mary G. Lehman, 1921-2015

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Are the Wheels Round? Thoughts on the American Dream

It’s been established that I play a little tennis. And recently, my team played a match at a swanky country club surrounded by even swankier homes. And for a few minutes, after finishing my match, packing up my gear and re-fueling on a granola bar, I watched a young man hit tennis balls with one of the pros. The teen wore a t-shirt with the name of an elite private school. He was a decent tennis player and most likely a nice boy with a bright future.country club

But imagining his future did manage to turn me a bit green. He evidently lives a privileged life filled with opportunities like private school and private tennis lessons at a lovely suburban country club. I wished in that moment that I could give my children access to such privilege. Don’t misunderstand. We’re not broke. And our kids go to very good public schools. But I don’t see myself as wealthy and sometimes feel I lack the ability to provide access to a “good” life. Therein lies my problem.

I’m the kind of person who is impressed when another parent says their child goes to Stanford or Notre Dame. And yet, telling someone your offspring goes to an elite college really says next to nothing about your child. It maybe tells me that your child is intelligent and possibly even hardworking. It certainly tells me that your child is privileged. But where someone goes to school doesn’t say anything about whether that person is honest, patient, kind, generous, loyal, joyful, gentle or self-controlled.

So in essence, my jealousy–spurred only by my perception–of the young tennis player, mainly signals my desire for privilege in my own life. Whoa.

MercedesYears ago–before we had children–the hubs pondered a job opportunity in Nebraska. We were living on the west coast at the time and I joked to my grandfather about how the lower cost of living in flyover country meant the hubs should buy me a Mercedes for agreeing to move there. (Sorry Nebraska. I’m sure you’re state is lovely.) But the point is, my grandpa didn’t laugh at my joke nor did he understand how having a Mercedes could make me happy. In fact, his exact words to me were, “Are the wheels round?”

Puzzled, I squinted at him and asked, “What?”

“On a Mercedes,” he said. “Are the wheels round on a Mercedes?”

“Yes,” I answered slowly, not entirely sure if he was having a senior moment. But then he smiled and I understood. He needed not say more. Round wheels will get you where you’re going. Anything extra serves an entirely different purpose.

The vehicles we choose to drive, like the clothes we wear, say something about our tastes but nothing real about our person. And I don’t mean to be derogatory toward Mercedes. They are beautiful automobiles. Just as I’m sure Stanford is a good school and that many good and decent students attend there. I just need to check myself and be reminded that there are way more important things to offer my children than privilege. If you’ve never given this much thought, maybe consider how the way you live your life speaks to others. Do people know you to be honest, patient, kind, generous, loyal, joyful, gentle and self-controlled? Is instilling those traits in your children more important than providing them every privilege and opportunity? If not, why not?

photoToday is Memorial Day. A day to honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, to ensure the privilege of our continued way of life with its access to democracy, freedom and opportunity. My grandfather did not die in the line of duty. But he was a WWII veteran who served his country proudly and lived long enough to teach me much about what it looks like to live a good life. A life that need not include luxury cars or country clubs to be blessed. Happy Memorial Day.

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