In spite of her struggles, and perhaps because of them, Lois grew to be a warrior. She was not a gym rat or a marathon runner. She was not a university graduate or a political powerhouse. She was not a career oriented woman driven to break a glass ceiling. She was more.

When we were wounded, she was there. When we were weary, she was there. When we were afraid, she was still there. But she could not always protect or prevent. Sometimes she was put in impossible positions, mired in unimaginable agony, torn between those she loved. Sometimes she failed. Sometimes she denied or avoided. But she tried, even to her final breath.

She was a full-time mom of six kids and two grandkids after that. She was an occasional college student, an occasional part-time worker. She was a 24 hour a day pastor’s wife accustomed to odd hours and uneven strangers:

Excuse me, Ma’am. Do you have sandwiches we could eat, please? And by the way, do you maybe have bus fare to help us get back home?

She was a woman who managed to bake 16 – 20 loaves of bread every week for her family of eight, to magically produce dozens of squares or muffins or jelly rolls, casseroles, meatloaf, potatoes and pie. There was porridge for breakfast because store-bought cereal was often too dear. There were puffed wheat and raisins, homemade desserts, bag lunches, lunch kits, sandwiches and a Thermos.

There were unending Christmas treats – all baked at home – shortbread, sugar balls, cookies and cakes. Christmas stockings – home sewn – an orange in the bottom.

There were garden grown veggies, hand picked berries, and too many shelves of canning. There was a never ending supply of mason jarred jams, jellies, chutneys and more when fruit or vegetables were available free.

There were coupons for shopping at different stores because things were on sale and prices were high. And gardens: those home grown veggies were grown at our home, or perhaps at the home of a kind hearted soul, given to families in need.

There were darned socks and hand-me-downs, used skates and mittens. There were old coats and hemmed pants, recycled Halloween. A button jar to sort through on cloud covered days, to rescue a shirt or to make new a coat.

And moving boxes – far too many of these: sometimes well loved as they rescued us from dirt-road towns we were eager to leave; sometimes well loathed because we would rather have stayed.

And months. There were too many months with not enough money.

But Lois was a warrior who loved to laugh and in spite of the challenges of moving often, of growing up poor, of remaining poor, she chose to laugh. She was compelled to have fun, to find joy. And because she did, we did. We giggled. We played table games. We danced in halls and barns, fiddles and squeeze-boxes turning out tunes. Hide and seek, freeze tag, kick the can, and more. We camped in the yard. We ate picnics in parks. We had sleep overs, pillow fights, candy canes, kites.

And between these things there were shadows, some like mist, some catastrophic and looming, blocking the sun, devouring warmth.

But no matter the obstacle, Lois would almost always find a way, sooner or later reminding us: It came to pass; it didn’t come to stay. Positive thinking! The church will pray. Make the most of who you are because that’s who you’ll be with wherever you go!

And we would groan. What could she know? She was just our mom.

But she believed it, even when it wasn’t true, even when there would be damaging, life-altering scars. Was her sometimes blind optimism helpful? No. Denial can be a terrible thing, but she refused to stay down and there is something to be said for that.

Whether she was encouraging her family, her friends, or especially herself, she would dig out her rose colored glasses, perch them on her nose and remind us that we’d get through it. And we would. We did. Maybe it wouldn’t be today or tomorrow or next week or even next month, but we would get through it. It came to pass.

Even when it was truly horrific, debilitating, crushing: assault, drugs, drink, car wrecks, betrayals, lost jobs, lost trust, too many bills, near blindness, disease, divorce, depression, suicide, death – far too much death.

It came to pass.

We learned this because Lois had become a warrior. And being a warrior doesn’t mean that you don’t get beaten down. It means that you don’t stay down.

She refused to give in. No matter how black the sky, she would wrestle in darkness until she found light – maybe hours, days, weeks, or even months, but she would find it. If she could walk toward it, she would walk. If she could run, she would run. If she could dance, she would kick up her heels and swing. But if all she could do was crawl, gasping, stunned, tear-streaked, she would crawl – bloodied, worn, wretched, but crawling.

No matter the depth of the canyon she found herself in, no matter how ferocious the cold sky above or the bone splintering winds below, sooner or later Lois would move toward the light.

Even on her last day – her very last day – she was still seeking light, seeking peace and pursuing it. She said as much to her doctor:

If the Lord wants to heal me, He will heal me. I might even walk out of here later today! I won’t lose hope.

And she didn’t. It changed but it was not lost. Even as she lay unable to move, robed in purple, dressed like a queen, even as she was taking her final breaths, she did not lose hope. She had a prayer of thanks on her lips, a prayer of trust, of faith that in some manner all would be well.

Rising, falling, rising again. There were countless days of sunshine, songs, dancing, of childhood games and grandchildren on swings, parties and campfires, costumes and joy.

But many of those moments existed through sheer force of will, through faith, through desperate prayers. They existed between shadows, often in suffocating darkness. They existed in spite of making do with less, in spite of depression, in spite of illness and death, dwindling hope, and betrayal. Her life was interrupted by paralyzing circumstances many more times than seemed fair, many more times than most people know, but Lois refused to stop searching for light, for hope, for kindness in the face of cruelty.

In fact, when she finally yielded on her last day, when sheer force of will was no longer enough, she was not yielding at all. She was changing, accepting, reminding me one more time that light is never meant to be kept. In her final moments she did as she had always done: she found light and she shared.

She shared to bind up the wounded, to bring rest to the weary, and courage to those who were afraid.

Even in her darkness – especially in her darkness – it was always about the light.


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