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Clues from a worn Bible

When asked to speak for someone at a funeral, I look for clues to help me say something personal others would readily recognize. One family who lost their mother, Lucy, knew exactly what to give me: her Bible. Full of notes, encouraging letters, cards, recipes and other clues, Lucy’s Bible told me so much about this spirited woman, her passionate love for God and her three extraordinary sons.

On the title page was a personal note to her boys: “God loves you. He’ll give you life everlasting, if you only believe. Yes, there is a God. I know. Without Him life would be nothing. He is a part of my life and every night I talk to Him as I am talking to you now. His love is with us all the time. He will get you safely out of a storm regardless how rough. He’ll be there. Just reach out. He will always hear you.”

Lucy raised and supported her three sons alone, yet amid long days and many struggles she still managed to openly display love and affection. One of her Bible bookmarks was a simple cross stitch: “Smile: God loves you.” Elsewhere she wrote: “What must I do to be saved? Love thy neighbor. Help and be a brother to him. Love thy Lord thy God with all your heart. Pray for the whole world every day. Love thy neighbor.” For Lucy, loving your neighbor was the primary focus.

At times, Lucy must have felt guilty, being so busy working and raising children with little time to spare to enjoy them. Hence the poem by Alice Chase carefully tucked between the pages:

My hands were busy through the day,

I didn’t have much time to play the little games you asked me to,

I didn’t have much time for you.

I’d wash your clothes; I’d sew and cook,

But when you’d bring your picture book

and ask me, please, to share your fun,

I’d say, “A little later, son.”

The picture books are put away,

There are no children’s games to play,

no goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear,

That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy, now lie still,

The days are long and hard to fill,

I wish I might go back and do,

The little things you asked me to.

Amid “Praise the Lord Anyhow!” stickers and fourleaf clovers, Lucy sensed she was leaving behind a legacy for her sons to follow within the pages of this Bible. She wrote: “My children are my life. I love each one as I do the other. I would give my life for them and my grandchildren. God knows I love every one of them. I would give all my treasure to the God who made it all possible.”

Lucy also marked Scripture passages. This one was her favorite: “Continue to love each other with true Christian love. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own bodies. Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.’ That is why we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid.’” (Portions of Hebrews 13:1-6)

What makes Lucy’s life memorable were the letters left behind for her sons. Maybe, sensing her own ending she wrote the following poem:

Remember when Mama used to be young and spry:

bake lots of cookies and sugar cream pies?

She helped with our lessons and sewed our busted jeans;

kissed away our troubles and mended all our dreams.

It’s strange how we all thought she’d never wear out.

She walks with a cane because of rheumatism no doubt.

Her eyesight is faded and her memories are dim.

She often insists on the silliest of whims.

When folks grow old they need so much more care.

Mama must have a home but the question now is where?

Does anyone want her?”

Yes, there is one willing to give her a place in the sun

where there will be no heartache, no wonder or doubts

and she won’t have any troubles to worry about.

We will all miss her soft voice and kind loving face.

Mama has a new home now for God has prepared a special place.

Through the pages of her worn Bible, Lucy left behind a priceless legacy and also offered reassurance for her family. The letters and poems along with her notes and underlined Scripture serve as timeless reminders of her love and devotion to God and to her children.

Lucy herself said it best: “God loves you. He’ll give you life everlasting, if you only believe. Yes, there is a God. I know. Without Him life would be nothing. He is a part of my life and every night I talk to Him as I am talking to you now. His love is with us all the time. He will get you safely out of a storm regardless how rough. He’ll be there. Just reach out. He will always hear you.”

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.