Ten round kindergarten faces stare at my mother, eyes saucer-big. She’s waving her hands in the air lamenting with the bride’s father that the wine has run out. Then she’s Mary pleading to her son for a miracle – Jesus reluctant at first, but finally producing the best wine Cana can offer.
Mom deftly drops red food coloring into the pitcher of water behind her back. “Jesus turned water into WINE!” She stands back to reveal the dye wiggling in red spurts to the bottom. She stirs briskly until it turns Cabernet red.
In the church sanctuary above communal voices read Episcopal prayer-book responses. Those parishioners have no idea that magic is happening in the classroom beneath them. Jesus has come alive in the hearts of little ones.
And also in the heart of a certain 10 year-old helper.
How I loved watching mom in Sunday School action. Her curriculum was a leathery King James Bible. She had never heard of Multiple Intelligences. She just knew kids needed visual, auditory, and kinesthetic paths to learning. Her students drew pictures, acted out stories, sang, and snacked.
And yes, drank “wine”.
Mom’s weekly magic reached beyond food coloring. Once she placed a sterno, the camping variety, on the table with the intention of setting fire to Shadrach, Mishak, and Abednego, metal soldiers who would hopefully escape the flames and not set fire to the church in the process. The threesome dangled then dipped. Miraculously, no one got hurt. At least as far as I know.
Another time mom shoved dollar bills inside a flashlight between batteries showing that our light can’t shine if we love money more than God. Little hands tried in vain to produce a light. Mom feigned frustration as well, “I have NO idea what the problem is. Oh no..what’s this? More money? We’re sorry, God.”
Stories about David were her favorite. Mom filled a fanny pack with six shiny stones and searched the woods behind our house for that perfect Y-shaped stick to be her slingshot. Goliath didn’t stand a chance.
They called her Mrs. T. She told Bible stories into her 90s, at the end to wide eyed preschoolers at a Florida childcare center.
She planted seeds of faith in countless kids, some no doubt pushing 50 by this time, perhaps sipping a glass of Cabernet and reminiscing about a miracle in Cana and a Sunday School teacher wielding a sterno and a pouch of shiny rocks.
Such was the legacy of Mrs. T.
What will our legacy be?
It won’t lie in job titles, bank balances, or furnishings.
Maybe it will be a portfolio of small moments. Words of encouragement, extra mile gifts, anonymous tokens. Unnoticed except by God, the only viewer who matters.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9
“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down. And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, O Lord, you know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before. And laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high; I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139: 1-6)
Psalm 139 was my mother’s favorite –
underlined in her leathery Bible and
spoken in unison at her funeral
where her legacy was celebrated.
I remember VIVIDLY all those stories. Amazing. Probably the last one I recall (maybe 4 or 5 years before she died in 2010; as an aside, she sometimes spoke of death as “going upstairs”) went this way: she showed the children a globe. The children would spin the globe and then stop it by putting a finger on a place. I think it was Greenland. She, the children and I then prayed for a girl and boy in Greenland. She made faith fun.
Thanks for all YOUR writing, Barclay!
She did make faith fun! Well said!