What will be remembered?

Tales from the front pew

How do you want to be remembered?

Many years ago, as part of my master’s program, I attended a class during which each student had to write his or her obituary.

As I recall, it was a thought-provoking assignment, primarily because it made each of us take stock of our lives up to that point.

Last week, that assignment came back to me vividly as I attended the memorial service of a beloved woman in our church. It was a memorial service rather than a funeral, because Irene had decided to leave her body to science. This final decision perfectly summed up the manner in which she lived — selflessly.

When my husband, Bob, began candidating at the church he currently pastors, Irene was one of the first people who welcomed us. Seventy-seven years old and several decades widowed, Irene felt an immediate connection to us because her husband had served as a chaplain, albeit in the military instead of a hospital, as we do.

As we came to know her, we discovered that one of Irene’s main gifts was hospitality. Each year she opened her home to the seminary student chosen to lead our spring revival.

While seminary students are typically a pretty harmless group, Irene frequently took a chance on lesser-known folks like the hitchhiker she picked up and drove to Pittsburgh.

When concerned friends expressed dismay at her lack of caution, Irene smiled and said, “I knew God would protect me, and I had two uninterrupted hours to tell this young man about the Lord.”

Another blessing that came from knowing Irene was her heritage. Of Hispanic descent, she shared her culture with us in delightful ways, not the least of which was her cooking. Any fellowship dinner featuring Irene’s authentic cuisine was unforgettable.

Her fluency in Spanish also proved valuable, particularly when it came to the afore mentioned seminary students. Coming from a university in Texas, many of the visiting student evangelists were also Hispanic with difficult to pronounce names.

One young man in particular had a name that began with a V and had approximately 14 letters — at least it seemed that way. Our congregation members gamely tried to pronounce it, coming up with anything from “vestibule” to “vichyssoise” (French for chilled potato soup), until Irene stepped in and explained it was pronounced “Vil-a-ree-al.”

Irene and I bonded over our love of cats.

Her beloved Beckham, named for the famous soccer player, gave new meaning to “cat-itude,” with a haughty manner and fiercely independent spirit that let everyone around him know he preferred the solitary, human-free life. Irene being the exception. She fondly told us of times she’d be reading her Bible with the aloof Beckham curled proprietarily around her neck and shoulder.

Irene loved animals, she loved people and most of all, she loved her Lord and Savior. Nothing was as important to Irene as sharing the gospel with those around her.

Her memorial service was filled with people whose lives she had touched in a special way.

Irene embodied Jesus’ love. And that’s how I would like to be remembered one day.

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