“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22
This past week marks the second anniversary of the passing of my dear mother-in-law, Jane. I was never a person who remembered someone’s death anniversary, instead choosing to remember them on their birthdays, celebrating their lives on that important day. But for some reason, my mother-in-law’s death has hit me differently. It could be that Facebook reminds me with pictorial memories of the last visit we had with her in January, 2018. We drove to Texas and spent four days soaking up her presence, trying to cherish every second, knowing that this would be our last visit. We took family pictures at church, the last family pictures we would ever have with her. It could also be that I feel a responsibility to pray harder for my father-in-law, my husband and the rest of the family, knowing that this day will be rough for them. Even though I think these things are part of why I remember her death anniversary, I think it is so much more. It’s an unpleasant reminder to me of what has transpired in the last two years; celebrations, accomplishments, and heartaches, for all of which she has been absent.
Jane loved her family fiercely and protectively. More importantly, in the last fifteen years, she became the family prayer warrior, often spending hours on her knees interceding on behalf of her family. She prayed that all of her children would grow in God, develop strong personal relationships with the Lord, and be Godly leaders in their homes. She prayed that her children would have strong families. She prayed over each of her grandchildren, calling them by name, that they would grow in God, be anchored in His word, and be used in the kingdom. She prayed for hours, not simple words, but powerful prayers connecting with God, prayers that have blessed our family and left a Godly heritage.
She was also my confidant and cheerleader. If I was concerned about a situation in our lives, she would encourage me by reminding me that God was in control. She would then tell me that she was going to add this concern to her daily prayer list. I knew she meant it. I also called her when there was good news, and hearing her rejoice with the words, “Thank you, Jesus,” was the icing on the cake!
Yet, for two years, I haven’t been able to call her. I couldn’t call her to tell her that the law firm that Terry worked for closed down, yet within a few months, God opened the door for another job that was better. She would have rejoiced knowing that Terry is in touch with some cousins from his father’s side of the family, helping him to connect to his roots. She would have been proud to know that Terry has stepped outside of his comfort zone and is directing an Easter passion play in our church.
I wasn’t able to sit with her at Ethan’s and Rachel’s wedding, hear her remark on the beautiful wedding ceremony and what an incredible wife Rachel was going to be. I wasn’t able to share with her the link to Ethan’s church, so she could listen to some of the messages that he has preached. I wasn’t able to celebrate with her over the news that she was going to be a great-grandmother to Ethan’s and Rachel’s baby. I knew that she could no longer pray blessings over this little one’s arrival in July.
I wasn’t able to tell her that Maggie was successfully completing nursing school, with a little over a semester and half to go. I couldn’t express to her about Maggie’s compassionate desire to help patients. I couldn’t ask her to pray for Maggie when she had her car accident, or when she broke her wrist. I couldn’t convey that her prayers for Maggie’s future were being fulfilled as I watch Maggie’s and Will’s friendship unfold into a lasting significant relationship in her life.
I couldn’t share with her my burden to start a blog, or ask her to pray with me that I might reach others. I couldn’t discuss with her what I have learned on my journey for better health. I couldn’t ask her to pray that God would anoint my words as I write a book on restoration, a book that she would have passionately supported.
Seven hundred and thirty days does not seem like many days, especially since I have been a part of Jane’s family for almost 25 years. Yet, as each day passes, life continues on. Unfortunately, when you lose someone you love, it continues without that person sharing those precious moments with you. Yet, in these seven hundred and thirty days, I have learned that a person’s legacy continues on if you embrace what their lives stood for.
Jane loved God and her family unconditionally. I can carry on her legacy by loving God and my family unconditionally, extending mercy rather than judgement. Jane rejoiced in victories and kept those moments as monuments to God’s faithfulness in her life. Like everyone, she had struggles, but whenever she got discouraged she would recall that God had never failed her. She would remind everyone of all the times God had seen her through tough spots. She kept holding on to God’s promises. I can carry on her legacy by marking moments in my life where God has given me a victory. I can remember when I face a new trial, that God’s promises are true and that He is working this out for my good.
Jane cherished the time she spent creating memories with her grandchildren. My children still talk about her famous cinnamon toast that I can’t successfully recreate. I can’t seem to slather the white bread with enough butter, or cover it with the correct sugar/cinnamon ratio. She made every visit special by focusing on them and listening to their stories, showering them with attention and love. I can carry on her legacy with my grandchildren, lavishing them with attention and love, and creating my own “cinnamon toast” memories.
Lastly, Jane prayed and spent time in God’s word. She prayed about everything. I need to learn to pray like she did and be willing to sacrifice my time to commune with God. I need to call on God, like she did, for my future grandchildren. Only God knows the true legacy of her prayers, how they might have protected us from danger or poor choices. I can carry on her legacy for my family by investing time in prayer, not simple words, but prayers of blessings and protection.
The spring after my mother-in-law passed, my husband planted some trees in our yard. We found a beautiful flowering magnolia tree. When we looked at the tag and read that this particular tree was classified as a “Jane Magnolia”, we felt as if God was gently assuring us that she would always be with us. We planted the tree, and it has continued to grow and thrive. In many ways, this tree is a memorial to me that, although she is gone, I need to carry on her legacy. I need to continue to grow and thrive like the magnolia tree.
Jane has been gone for over 730 days now, but if I serve God as faithfully as she did, I can spend eternity with her. I can hear her southern accent come out when she says, “Thank you, Jesus”, while joy floods her face as she watches her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren enter into heaven for eternity. Her legacy will continue on if I learn by her life’s examples