Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Familiar with the TV show, “Everybody Loves Raymond?” Rick’s sisters have said that Rick is like Raymond and I am like Debra. (Although I hope I do not yell as much as Debra.) During a sermon series on marriage, I shared this in church. Afterwards, a member commented that if Rick is Raymond and I am Debra, then Rick’s Mom, Ersel, must be Marie! Ersel heard this conversation. She quickly turned around and said, “I am not!” A couple weeks later at our house, she admitted that she could Marie but she didn’t live across the street from us.
While Ersel didn’t live across the street from us, she had many good things that reminded me of Marie Baron. The perfectly coiffed hair. A perfectly accessorized and tasteful outfit. A deep love and concern for her family. As she slipped away from this life and to her eternal home this afternoon, I thought about how everyone in the hospital room loved Ersel, as well as many others who were not present.
I have no awful mother-in-law stories. I have the exact opposite. I have lots of instances and ways Ersel supported, encouraged and loved me. From the time I became her pastor, she was always supportive of my ministry, even as I was learning to be a pastor. She was appreciative when I would host a family gathering or arrange something. She was long on compliments and short on criticism. A few months after Rick and I were married, she thanked me for finally getting Rick to dress, in her words, “decently!”
In a birthday card, she once wrote that I was more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law. She did not have to write this. She told me that she did because she wanted to.
For the last several months, I had the great pleasure of living with Ersel several days a week. In essence, I didn’t move across the street but into her house. While this must have been hard for her, she never made me feel uncomfortable. We developed a mutual respect for each other and our roles. I had the great pleasure of taking her to appointments, helping her with therapy and trying to find gluten-free recipes that didn’t taste like dry cardboard. Even when a dessert did, she never complained.
This afternoon, our family gathered around her bed, laid hands on her and prayed. Then, Pastor Carol led us in the 23rd Psalm. For the last two days, Ersel’s ability to communicate with us had been limited. As we shared together the words of this psalm, she mouthed most of them. What a precious Christian role model she was to me and the rest of our family until the very end. This is a woman whose goodness and mercy will follow her beyond this life as she dwells in the house of the Lord for eternity.
Lord God, thank you for allowing me to know this great servant of yours, Ersel. I celebrate her life as you welcome her into your kingdom. May the love she has demonstrated to so many people be a significant reminder of why relationships are so important within your kingdom. Amen.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who might also enjoy it.