My mother’s funeral took place last Saturday. Even though she was diagnosed with an advanced stage of leukemia back in 2005, her death still came as a shock.
For over a decade, our family had grown accustomed to her medical roller coaster of highs and lows, so the start of this past hospital stay felt expected and routine.
Mom spent fourteen Christmases with us since her initial diagnosis. God had repeatedly granted her earthly extensions--but this past December 31st, He chose to ring in her new year with resurrected eternal life.
As I started to reflect and prepare her eulogy, I struggled with how to summarize and honor her life in just five short minutes.
I could have spoken for endless hours about the love and appreciation I had for her as my mother and friend, or about the precious relationship she had with my children as their Nana. Or I could have chosen several humorous stories to share about her personality and hobbies, but none of these anecdotes would have done justice to the main focus of her life . . . her faith.
Jesus invited His disciples to follow Him and become “fishers of men.” Like a fisherman who casts a net to pull fish into his boat, Christians are commissioned to spread the gospel in order to draw those around us to Christ.
My mom was fishing all the time! She was casting nets at home, at work, in the grocery store, in the hospital. She always did her best to witness to others and develop her own faith, especially throughout the many trials she faced in life . . . and I’m not just talking about her battle with cancer.
Christian life is not easy.
Faith is not just a comforting idea, but rather it’s a difficult race of endurance. It’s loving and forgiving—even when you don’t feel like it. It’s practicing patience and remaining devoted—even when you don’t see change and want to give up. It’s keeping hope and truly living with joy—despite your difficult circumstances.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
Considering problems “pure joy” does not mean that we pretend to be happy or love pain, but rather it directs us to turn hardships into a time of spiritual development. This refining process strengthens our faith and builds our Christ-like character.
Over the years I have seen my mother tested in many areas. Countless conversations revealed to me her human feelings, but her intentional actions proved her genuine faith.
For the most part, her difficult circumstances did not change . . . but it was a privilege to see her perspective transform as she continually got back up, pressed on, and conquered extreme tests of spiritual character and perseverance.
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 NLT)
While taking care of her in the hospital, I watched Mom use some of her last bursts of energy and words to witness to those around her. She fished until her final days.
One of the last prayers that she spoke aloud was this: “Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me. I pray that my life has been lived with purpose and that it has glorified You. Help my life to lead others to You Lord.”
I believe this concluding verse summarizes Lee Ann’s life. They are some of the final words spoken by the apostle Paul, expressing his confidence in knowing that he fulfilled his calling as he prepared to meet Jesus.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT)
It was an honor to be one of the people holding Mom’s hand as she took her last breath here on earth and crossed over into eternity. As I could physically feel her pulse disappear, I was comforted with an overwhelming peace that passes all understanding—knowing that she was no longer in pain, she finished the race strong, and that by grace and faith she was escorted into the presence of Jesus.
Your life may be longer than expected or shorter than anticipated. It’s important for each of us to make the most of the unknown time that we are given. Fish for life!