About a month ago, my mother-in-law, Josephine Jean Down, passed away at the age of 76. Her memorial service was filled with people who had something of a rarity in common: They all had received a “Thank You Card” from her sometime in their lives.
Thank You Cards are getting to be a rarity during the electronic email age we are now in. To receive a hand written, hand held Thank You Card through snail mail is becoming an obsolete practice. Jean, sent people Thank You Notes for every imaginable act of kindness. She even sent my son a thank You Note for sending her a Thank You Note. “Gratitude” was never overlooked by her; “Appreciation” was always expressed. In a day when even polite “thank-yous” are becoming an anomaly, taking time to craft a hand written expression of appreciation is a gift of love.
Her other “gift” was her Blessing Bowl: a ceramic bowl that contain over two hundred two-inch squares of paper that recorded things she saw as blessings: a meal with Donald & Judy, a visit from one of her grand children, a kind word a person had toward her, nothing small or what seemed uneventful was missed. She recorded them all, in thankfulness, in minute writing on two-inch squares. Often at the end of many of the squares was a reminder: Send a Thank-You Note. She has taught me to take nothing for granted and to be thankful for all things, no matter how insignificant they may seem. In the hecticness of our day, we are blinded to the blessing that are around us due to the blur of our constant activity, demands on our time, and multi-tasking endeavors.
She was also a seed sower. When healthy she greeted everyone by name, introducing everyone to each other, birthing new relationships between people. Although usually quiet in nature, she would place gospel tracts with every meal she got at a restaurant, introducing herself to her waitress, learning her waitress’ name, then introducing her by name to the others around the table. In little ways she would sow her faith by establishing relationships. I am sure in heaven she is at the pearly gate with St. Peter, introducing him to everyone she knew or met who is also entering heaven on a first name basis!
What is ironic about all this is that her life had been a life often of extreme darkness from depression. She had faced several institutionalizations, had ECT, electro-shock-therapy, administered to her several times, and would often slip into depressive moods of consuming darkness. Even in her darkness, she introduced people to each other on a first name basis, thanked anyone who brought even a small ray of light into her life, and added more two-inch squares to her blessing bowl at the end of the day. Often she would read those blessings from that bowl when in the maelstrom of depression to remind herself how blessed she was!
The Bible says that “darkness can not consume the light”. Her life has become her legacy of that truth. We who are so blessed need to record it in thankfulness; we who live in the light of life need to reach out to those whose lives are engulfed in darkness; we who have so much to be thankful about need to start expressing that thankfulness towards others; and we who are networking with so many need to never lose the first names of those with whom we are in contact no matter how shallow the relationships.
As the pastor giving her eulogy pointed out: Like the women who gave the vial of perfume which she poured over Jesus feet and washed it with her hair, to this women the Bible records as “she did what she could”! Jean “did what she could” never knowing the powerful influence she had on others. Out of her darkness she gave light; out of her depression she gave others hope; when losing her identity to mental illness she never lost the identity of those around her always knowing them on a first name basis. She was truly an extraordinary person who “did what she could”!
A challenge to all of us to duplicate!