I wasn’t expecting to write this particular blog so soon. I suppose I knew it was coming, sometime, but it crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. Life is like that, friends. Won’t you agree? Life is like that, and so is death.
My sister Carmilla had been declining steadily for a while, probably longer than we knew. Perhaps we ignored signs that were there, or perhaps Carmilla was good at hiding them. That no longer matters. She died Monday evening. It might have been the dementia she was experiencing, or her diabetes, or something else, but she passed out of her pain and confusion and blindness, and into the everlasting light of God.
I am one of six sisters. In years past we lost two sisters by accidents, Martha May, the third oldest, when she was just a child of five, and Arloween, the oldest, as a young adult. But those losses were a long time ago. Carmilla was the first of us surviving sisters to reach the end of her life more naturally. Although she is no longer suffering, it is still a shock.
Her passing, however, has had me thinking. My mind has been filled with memories today of our childhood and adult lives. Carmilla’s life wasn’t easy. She had four children with her husband, and she was a devoted mother and wife. You could easily say she was faithful. Nobody is perfect, and Carmilla could hold a grudge with the best of them, but nobody was prepared when her husband up and left her and the children. I think this broke her heart more than anyone could really know. She had expected that marriage to last forever, as a marriage is supposed to.
The children, however, wouldn’t wait for her grief. She picked up her burdens, all four of them, and continued on. She was a dedicated mother, and loved her children with all she had. She remained faithful to them, and did whatever she had to do to keep them fed and clothed and nurtured.
Somewhere in here I began my linguistics ministry, first in Mexico, and then in Papua New Guinea. Struggling as she was, Carmilla managed to find $10 a month to send me. Of all the support pledges I received over my decades as a missionary, hers was the smallest monthly amount I got. But she sent it every month, month after month. My records go back to about 1970. Her small gift came in in that fashion for every month through the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, the 00’s, and up until this month.
Carmilla surely thought her little bit was hardly worth sending, but I am here to tell you otherwise. Like the widow in Mark 12:41-44, Carmilla’s $10 – her two copper coins – added up. She ended up giving me more than $5500 over all those years. That’s enough to have covered many of the long flights I’ve had to take in my ministry. She was able to help me do God’s work by simply remaining faithful, by trusting God that her small gift would mean something. Sitting here at my dining room table, I am humbled by her faithfulness.
She was faithful in so many other ways. As children, she faithfully watched over me as I crawled down a culvert to recover a baseball we girls had lost, warning me when cars were coming so I wouldn’t be afraid. And she spent long hours of her later life gathering up and organizing the only comprehensive genealogy I am aware of in our family. In a sense this made her not only faithful to sisters or children, but to the larger family. She was also a faithful tither, and she went to church at least three times a week all her life, even when her health was failing. I’m sure you could guess that, until she went blind, Carmilla faithfully read her Bible every day.
As a mother, as a sister, as a supporter, she was as constant as the north star. Of course, she wasn’t perfect, but who is? She was many things, but here at the end of her days it is clear. Carmilla, my dear big sister, I am humbled by, and thankful for, your enduring faithfulness. You have earned your rest with our Father above.