Monday, January 29, 2018

Reflections On A Life Well Lived...

We laid Orpha, my dear mother-in-law, to rest this weekend. It was bittersweet. Bitter for those of us left mourning our loss. Sweet for her, as she was one of the strongest Christian women I knew and I believe she has met her maker. I love the picture above of her and Steve at a family reunion in 2009.

Over the years, I have learned a great deal from Orpha. Her faith was her foundation in life. She lost her mother when she was five years old and her father when she was thirteen. Her older sister raised Orpha and her younger brother into adulthood and forever after became a surrogate mother. Though she didn't have a great deal of memories of her mother, Orpha talked ever so fondly of her father before his passing. His response to all things was prayer.

In 1950, Orpha married Philip, a Godly man and the love of her life. They went on to have nine children. One of which died at age two from a ruptured appendix after being sent home from the doctor with a stomach flu diagnosis and only a month before her baby number five was born. What a trying time that must have been! Yet, their faith remained steadfast. Something that really struck me on the day of her death, is when we were gathered at her bedside and one of her sons shared that in all his years, not once did his mother and father have a fight/disagreement/argument in front of the children. Amazingly, each child attested to it and had the same memory. Orpha and Philip loved and respected each other like no other.

During her years, Orpha never drove. She was dependent on Philip for a ride. He did most of the shopping so her outings consisted of church two times a week and family gatherings. Day in and day out, she lived on a very meager farmer's wife budget, cooking, baking, washing, and cleaning for their large family. And her children claim, she never worried. Orpha believed the Lord would provide and did he ever! They have story upon story of His provisions, especially through Philip's major illnesses. The children are adamant that she prayed daily for them and their safety because on a farm, there is plenty to get in to and they remained safe. They even talked about the pine boards upstairs in the farm house by her bed being worn from years of her kneeling knees. In spite of her days at home, she was never alone. Her God and family kept her company.

In 1999, the sister that acted as mother to Orpha died. Then Philip passed away in January of 2000. Orpha's been widowed for many years, but family and friends continued to stop by the farm, bringing in supplies and giving her rides to church, which was the highlight of her week. In April of 2005, just two days before our son, Ruben, was born, one of Orpha's daughter's lost her battle with cancer. She was no stranger to loss, but again her faith sustained her. Orpha spent hours with her bible, reading and underlining meaningful passages. She played piano at home and church up to about a year ago. Often times, when the kids would run across the field to visit grandma, she'd be at the piano playing hymns. They'd tell me how they'd sneak in and listen quietly to her beautiful tunes.

About three years ago, at age 91, Orpha moved off the farm and in with one of her daughters. The kids nearly didn't know what to do with themselves when they couldn't walk over to grandma's every day. Orpha was gentle, peaceful, and content. She and Philip opened their home to anyone in need. Even though they didn't have much, they knew with God, it was always enough. My cousins described her as a "storybook grandma". She showed a great love for her family, as well as the Lord, always sharing photos and telling stories of various family members and days gone by. And, she made the best wheat buns I've ever had in my life! We all missed her greatly when she left. But most of all, I missed her witnessing and testimony. She was a very intelligent lady with much wisdom and a tremendous inspiration to my faith.

On December 29, 2017, we spent our last Christmas with Orpha. On January 1, 2018, she went to the hospital with pneumonia, eventually congestive heart failure set in. On January 15th, she decided not to continue treatments because at 94-years old she was tired. Her daughter tried to bring her home on January 18th for hospice care, but when they started unhooking things, it was apparent she wouldn't make the ride and needed to stay just a few more hours at the hospital. Calls were made and all of her children, their spouses, and grandchildren, all but two, plus most of the great-grandchildren gathered at her bedside. What a testament to her love giving life!

One of Orpha's last wishes was that her family would read Scripture to her, particularly Psalm 23, when she no longer could. As the day went on, a couple of her sons took turns reading it, as well as other passages she had underlined in her Bible over the years. Her kids also played piano hymns by her ear from their cell phones. It seemed to calm her. Right about 6:30 p.m., that evening, one of the grand kids suggested we all sing Amazing Grace. While we sang, Orpha took her last breath. If death can be beautiful, this was it. It definitely lost its sting that day. It was so surreal, unlike anything I've seen and I have seen death more than once. A child finally meeting her Father after a life well lived for Him.

I'm still processing it all, but of all the things that stick out, none are stronger than Orpha's unwavering faith. It sustained her in life and death. Life surely gave Orpha her fair share of adversity, but she never let it get her down. She always found time to read her bible and allowed the Lord to see her through. Seeing her open her eyes at the end and take those last breaths during our singing of that hymn, has forever changed me.

I've since been reflecting on what matters most. What is it I want my kids to remember on my death bed? Morbid?, maybe, but really what is the end goal of life, including this whole home education thing. What will my legacy be? In the end, for Orpha, there was never a mention of any books they read, other than the bible, lesson plans or homework assignments. It was about her faith and the wisdom and love she bestowed upon her children because of it. 

One thing I know for sure is that every day is a cause for celebration. And, I hope when I'm having a bad day, I will reach for my bible. Plain and simple, put the other books away and get out my bible. Sing hymns and read the bible. Orpha lived a good life and made a huge impression on me because of her faith. Like I said, I'm still thinking about all of this as it is so fresh in my mind. Faith and family were key components in Orpha's life. She left a tremendous legacy for her children and I want that for my children as well. 


  1. I loved reading this, thank you for sharing.

  2. I am sorry for your loss.. and thank you for sharing this... wow... this was beautiful. I have been thinking about the same things lately...just what really matters ... its good to educate and all that but all that is temporary... I had a very godly grandfather...he was a man of prayer and his faith is still talked about almost a decade after he died. He left a mark on my life. He prayed for us every day for hours. I think that's speaks volumes and a goal to strive towards for us moms, for our children's sake.

    1. Thanks for your kind words and condolences Julz. Praying for your children, grandchildren and the like does speak volumes. It sounds like your grandfather was an amazing man. It's important to stop and reflect on these things from time to time in order to realign our thinking to God's way.

      Many Blessings,