In the early years of Toronto’s Institute for Christian Studies, their professors would present theological and philosophical lectures in supporting churches. When one of these professors came to Willowdale Christian Reformed Church, my Mom decided to go and hear what he had to say. I went too. The professor spoke for an hour. After his talk, Mom turned to me and said, "Why did he make something so simple into something so complicated? I could have said what he said in five minutes."
For my Mom things were very simple. And her legacy is simple, but very profound. She lived by five themes that defined her and inspired us.
Theme #1: Bloom where you are planted.
As the first lady of seven congregations – two in the Netherlands; five in Canada – and a retiree who lived twelve years in St. Catharines and twelve years in Surrey, B.C., she was uprooted and transplanted more times than most plants can survive. But she made a conscious decision to develop and use her gifts wherever God planted her. This attitude made her an entrepreneur who helped her children return bottles to the beer store so that we could buy our first record album, Beatlemania. It also led to her fulfilling work as a foster parent to a stream of babies, toddlers and teens whose lives were kept on track by her care.
Theme #2: Melt icy hearts with the sunshine of God’s love.
Wherever she found herself, she always made a special effort to woo rather than wound the people God put on her path. On one occasion, while making the rounds with my Dad to meet the families of a new church, a grumpy man vented many of his complaints. In the middle of his tiring tirade, he stopped to take a breath. In that pause, Mom looked him in the eye and said, "You know what? I like you." He burst out laughing and became one of my Mom's biggest fans.
Theme #3: Appreciate the small things in life.
As a grateful person she never took anything for granted. Many years ago we gave her the outdoor thermometer that still hangs on their balcony. I don’t know how often she has told us, “Oh, Peter and Marja, that thermometer is wonderful.” Don’t even get her going on that handy dish brush that you can fill with dish detergent or the magic powers of a Swiffer duster!
Theme #4: Stay active.
In her 30’s, she learned English and how to drive a standard. In her 40’s, she joined Toastmaster’s and learned how to make and present speeches. In her 50’s, she took up the trumpet, fearlessly, if not always successfully, performing trumpet solos in church. In her 60’s she became a serious athlete, swimming laps at the Rec Centre six days a week. Two weeks before she died at age 88, she learned how to compose and send e-mails and met her self-imposed goal of sending an e-mail to all of her kids.
Theme #5: There is no one like Jesus.
My Mom chose the theme for her funeral: “There is no one like Jesus.” She wanted people to be reminded that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. She especially wanted people to know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that the power of Christ’s resurrection sustained her when she was bullied in the Netherlands for being a redhead; when she was homesick whenever she moved to another place with Dad; when she almost died during childbirth; when she experienced the parental pain that every Mom feels when she sees her children struggle to find their identity; when she wrestled with bouts of depression; when she felt the shared weight and burden of ministry; and when she battled cancer with grace and a God-given fortitude.
I thank God for my always blooming, ice-melting, grateful, active, believing Mom. A legacy to inspire us all!
- Pastor Peter