Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Memories of Mamita

My mother-in-law went to Heaven three weeks ago. I often think of her and wonder what she's doing up there. I picture her basking in God's presence, soaking up His love and awestruck by the beauty of all He has created. I feel really excited for her! In the midst of sadness and mourning her absence, I am thrilled that she gets to experience such wonder!!

She got glimpses of it even before she left. It may sound strange to some of you but while she was totally coherent the whole time her health was declining, she had beautiful visions and would share them with us. On several occasions she had visions of "lots and lots of beautiful stars of all different colors, like Christmas lights and beautiful big flowers everywhere and lots and lots of people!" I think God was giving her a glimpse of what was to come so that she would be more at peace about going. There were two angels that kept coming for her. She could only see them from the neck down so she didn't know if they were male or female but she could see long bright, white robes. They would hold out their arms towards her, beckoning her but she would tell them she wasn't ready to go yet and they would leave. She held on with all she had. She didn't want to leave her family. But, God was wooing her, preparing her. He is a gentleman.

From the first day I met her I called her "Mamita." My little mommy. And that's what she was to me. She loved me unconditionally. That's something that pretty much can only be done by mothers and God himself. God blessed me abundantly by giving her to me and I will forever be grateful to Him for that!!

She was an example of what it means to be like Christ. She could have easily been the author of 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." She rarely ever went to church, never took a discipleship course or attended a Bible study. She didn't know how to read and so she never even had the opportunity to read the Bible for herself yet her life was a glowing example! She was a humble soul and her life verse could have been Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." I remember one night a week or so before she left us, she cried and begged us all to forgive her for everything. Honestly, none of us could even fathom any reason to need to forgive her. But that was her humble heart crying out to us and to the Lord. She was grateful for every blessing the Lord bestowed upon her and often shared about how good God had been to her.

The "Love Chapter" is a popular one in the Bible. I Corinthians 13 explains what true love is really like. It's the kind love that we all wish we could receive and the kind of love that seems impossible for us to be able to give. I would never claim that my Mamita was perfect but she personified verses 4-7 to me! "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." That was her to a tee! She forgave horrible offenses with ease and grace. She made everyone feel loved, accepted and treasured!

I learned a lot of things from her. Practical things like cooking and ironing and more important things like how to be servant. But I lack the heart with which she did those things. She cooked with love, patience and generosity. There was always enough for as many people who happened to come through the door. Without giving it a second thought, she would go without in order to serve someone else. If there wasn't enough food she would be at work behind the scenes sending someone to the store for more and cooking up extra before anyone even had a clue that something was amiss. If surprise visitors arrived she would quietly begin re-allocating family members to different beds and houses so that her company had the best bed available, often assigning herself to the floor and the guests were none the wiser! She was a champion ironer too! She made clothes look like new! She dedicated her time and energy to do her very best at everything she did. There wasn't a lazy bone in her body. She was the first one awake and the last one to sleep. She was always putting others before herself! Even on her deathbed she was thinking of others first! One morning at about 5am I woke up to help her because she was thirsty and needed a drink but first she said to me, "Can you please go put on some water for coffee for everyone, they will be waking up soon."

Ever since she left, I have been even more aware of all the things I learned from her. Almost on a daily basis I draw on those memories to encourage myself to be more like her. Not just going through the motions of fulfilling my obligations in life but doing them with the right heart and the right attitude. Serving others with love, patience and generosity. I have to admit, it doesn't come naturally to me. I have to work on it. When I feel the grumbling or resentment sneaking up on me in my heart, I stop and remind myself of how she would have done it! That famous saying, "What Would Jesus Do?" has become "What Would Mamita Do?" The answer to both questions is always the same and I strive to allow God to soften my heart and follow Mamita's example, as she followed Christ's example.

On the morning of July 6th, Jorge and I had to leave to fly back to Colombia. It was heartbreaking to have to say "goodbye" to her knowing it would be the last time we saw her here on earth. I woke up early that morning and while it was still dark and everyone was still asleep I crawled into bed with Mamita. She put her arm over mine and patted my hand lovingly. She mustered up some strength and said very matter-of-factly, "You're leaving today." I cried and admitted the truth to her. Later, as I had to go, I said to her, "Mamita, I don't want to say goodbye, so I'll just say that I will meet you there, OK? When I get there I will be looking for you, OK?" She nodded her head, yes and I kissed her for the last time. The next day as Jorge and I were arriving to our home in Colombia at 5:20 pm she was arriving to her home in Heaven.

I can't wait to see you there, Mamita! Save me a seat next to yours!

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