A Gift for My Dying Mother – Matthew 6:19-21

A few days before she died, with the room full of talkative family members, Mom cracked a line that made my jaw drop. Befuddled, I didn’t know whether to laugh at her joke or cry. The conversation was about buying more Christmas gifts, but her remark silenced everyone.

At that point Mom only wanted to lie still and observe her family. No more therapies, no more interventions or procedures, fewer pills to swallow. She’d asked for a place of rest and peace, and that’s what we provided for her. The hospice center had quiet halls, gentle caregivers, beautiful scenery, and space for her loved ones around her bed.

As talk of Christmas preparations continued I watched my mother’s face. Too tired to smile, but not to engage, she said

“Well, you don’t have to get me anything.”

It could have been an incredibly sad moment, realizing that my precious mother was lying there in a hospital gown she didn’t own. The bed wasn’t hers either. Her photo albums, china, jewelry, mementos from her travels. Her iPad, her comfortable chair, her favorite foods at home in the refrigerator. She’d never enjoy them again. They were nothing to her now.

Yet, in Mom’s gentle yet powerful way, she’d spoken volumes. She didn’t want any gift except our love. She lay there content in the middle of her family until she followed Jesus out of our sight.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:7 ESV

The day after Mom passed I went into my bedroom and pulled my cell phone charger out of the wall. She didn’t need me to be accessible in the night any more. Mom didn’t need anything from me, and never would again. She had instead given me the most valuable gift, a legacy of love to share with the world.

Beloved, let’s love one another.

An unedited version was shared at the memorial service for my mother, Delores Sheldon, on January 4, 2020.


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

In Mom’s passing from this life she was surrounded by love, her most cherished treasure. Upon entering eternal rest it is with her still.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis


How One Woman Left Her Mark – Job 23:12

Have you thought about your influence continuing even after you’ve passed away? My grandmother’s legacy lives, her existence leaving a lasting impression that still speaks to me today. 

Grandma Kocher left her mark in many ways. Her first husband, my grandfather Chester Sheldon, taught school in Prosser, Washington in the late 1920s. One of our family heirlooms is a photo of him with his students lined up on the schoolhouse steps. Two of the children have x’s penciled above their heads, my aunt and uncle. Years later Grandma deepened the x’s with a ballpoint pen. 

Grandmother's treasured Bible from 1950 with separated, torn, and heavily marked pages, to illustrate how well used it was.

 

We also found Grandma’s marks on used envelopes, receipts, paper bags, and in the margins of ancient Grit newspapers. It seemed whenever she found enough white space she’d fill it with verse, sharpening her pencil stub with a dull kitchen knife. She added a poem to her recipe for making soap which attests to its ability to remove dirt from most anything—the last sentence pointing the way to Jesus for cleansing from sin.

Until I searched through her Bible, I didn’t know she’d marked it so much. This surprised me. Grandma was careful with her possessions, a habit she learned from living decades with scarcity. She saved everything, clipping zippers and buttons from worn out clothing to store for later use. Empty, hand-washed peanut butter jars lined the shelf on her back porch. One of the few toys she had in the house was a plastic surprise from a cereal box, which we played with for years. As much as Grandma loved God and learning, it’s incredible that she would add wear and tear to her beloved Bible.

But now I understand. I, too, study the most wonderful of books, applying what it’s saying to my heart, underscoring the parts I most want to remember. 

 

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth
more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12 NKJV

 

Did Grandma know that her Bible would be appreciated by others after she was gone? Probably not. I do know that I never felt more closely related to her than when I pored through her Bible, seeing which scriptures she dwelt on the most, finding a love note and a photo of my father.

 

Here are her thoughts in her own words (taped on an opening page):

I know the precious old Bible is just about outworn. For many words are dimmed, and many pages are torn.

But to me ’tis very precious. It came from friends most dear; when days seemed dark and cheerless, has bro’t me hope and cheer.

God says to read his word, to store it in the heart. Then thro’ life’s long journey He never shall from us part.

So I thank God for my Bible, and for the dear class friends who presented this Book to me. We shall be reunited when this present world shall end.

Ina E. Kocher

 

Grandma’s Bible is also full of unreadable scrawlings, dimmed with age like the x’s in the school picture. She wrote new notes over the top of them, always learning, probing for understanding. There are tears encircling the book, probably from being bound by a rubber band to hold in its detached pages and other treasures. Her last picture taken with Grandpa is one of them. She wrote on the back, “Sam and Ina Kocher. Our last one taken together, in 1972. It is very precious to me.”

It’s sad to think of pages and photos deteriorating, Grandma’s story lost from memory. But her legacy lives on, not of paper and leather, pencil and ink. It lies in the words she hungered for, giving her strength to live as she did, leaving marks in my life that will not fade. 

Kathy Sheldon Davis

I’m Not the Grandma I Thought I Would Be – Philippians 4:12-13

This isn’t how I thought grandparenting would be. My grandmothers and my mom did it so well. My own grand-mothering started out to be much like theirs, but chronic pain soon changed my course.

For a few years I was able to help care for my grandchildren as I thought grandmas should. I carried them, dressed them, caught them when they ran toward the street. I played chase-and-tickle as they toddled around the kitchen. I led them to places of discovery and taught them to be brave when the rooster threatened.

After my first mission trip to Africa, I wrapped chitenge material around my infant grandson and tied him to my back, hoping to carry him down the mile-long road to the mailbox. Afraid I might strangle him, and remembering the four-year-olds in Zambia who did a better job making their siblings comfortable on their backs, I postponed our trip.

In San Angelo I took another grandson on an exploring trek, packing our snacks and water bottles. We made it to the Concho River where we discovered the carcass of a cat which he wanted to touch. I showed him how to poke it with a stick instead. After wilting all day in the Texas heat, we drenched ourselves in the sprinkler when we got home.

After that my arthritis pain slowed me down. I don’t stir cookie dough or lift large pots of spaghetti sauce anymore. My youngest grandchildren won’t remember me chasing them around the house. On our family camping trips I stay close to the trailer while they wander off. It’s easy for me to fall into despair about losing the ability to take part in some of their adventures.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-13 ESV

Yet I can be content. I don’t expect I’ll experience suffering at the same level of the apostle Paul, but I’ll draw my strength from Jesus who helps me remain content whatever my state. He really is all I need.

Yesterday I sat on the bleachers for a grandchild’s school band concert. Three rows away my daughter-in-law sat alone, reserving a place for us. I wanted to be near her, but I knew I’d be too uncomfortable to stay long. I stood in the back.

Sometimes staying content is hard. In lack there is also great abundance. I’m sometimes overwhelmed by friends, for one thing, whose love pours out richly toward me. I can face plenty and need, remaining content in either place with the strength he provides.


Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26 ESV

Visiting Dead Cat Park wasn’t the best part of our day, nor was the impressiveness of my physical abilities the most memorable. What will endure in my grandson’s mind is his grandmother’s love for him. I pray he also recognizes her source of unending joy, strength, and contentment.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis