A Tale of Two Saints
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
By Debbonnaire Kovacs
Submitted October 29, 2014
This week is a bittersweet one for me, every year for the past three years. October 28 was the 20th anniversary of the day my beloved husband, Les, and I were married. It was also his birthday. He died 3 ½ years ago, and the active pain is gone, but I still miss him and always will.
November 2 is my mother’s birthday. Nine months after Les died (an expected and merciful death after a long, long illness), she was found dead on her floor with no warning and for no discernible reason. That one was harder to take in some ways, because it was such a stunning shock and because I had been depending on her love as I navigated the maze of grief after Les’ death.
So for my devotional writing today, I am taking one verse of this week’s lectionary passage, Matthew 23:12, and considering these two saints who blessed my life in so many ways. I hope you can use these words to consider your own life, loves, and losses.
“The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
Both my mother and my husband were intrinsically humble and both had the gift of giving. Neither one seemed to think much about it—they just gave of themselves at all times and on all occasions. A story about each will suffice to demonstrate their personalities.
My mother lived the last 25+ years of her life within the Lummi Indian Reservation near Bellingham, WA. I say “within” because her land was no longer reservation land, having been sold out many years before. However, she became a well-known and beloved figure in the Lummi community; I believe it was at least in part her doing that the small Adventist church on the reservation fed many children every Sabbath morning. I know she taught them and told them stories and made Sabbath School materials by hand for them, as she did for my brothers and sisters and me.
One night she was driving down the main road through the reservation and saw a young woman staggering along the side of the road. She pulled over (she wouldn’t have considered any other action) and got out to ask if she could help. It was obvious that the young woman was extremely drunk. When she saw my mother, she cried out, “Oh, auntie, I don’t want to live like this!” (“Auntie” and “Uncle" are the courteous terms for any older person in Native American culture.) My mother put the young woman in the car, and it is characteristic of her that I actually don’t know the details of what happened next. Did she take her home? Take her to the Lummi help agencies? I know she would have prayed for and with the young woman, and continued to help as she could.
Les and I lived for the first 12 years of our marriage on his farm in central Ohio. He was not Adventist, but attended church with me faithfully, and was beloved of everybody. One day one of the oldest women in the church had the announcements. She began by asking prayer for her family because a member of it had died. “The funeral is today, but I couldn’t afford to drive [to a city six hours away],” she said.
Les cried out, “Why didn’t you say something? I would have taken you!” I was surprised. Les was very quiet, never speaking up in services, and rarely in classes; in fact, he was a low-words kind of a guy generally, though he could tell some great stories. For him to shout out right in the sanctuary was kind of a big deal.
The lady was flustered, insisting that was too much to ask, and so on, and in any case it was now too late to go. Les wasn’t able to convince her to let him take her even now, to be with her family even if she missed the funeral. He made a practice of driving his mother and aunts on trips as far away as visiting family in other states or, on one memorable trip, going all over the Civil War battle sites in Pennsylvania, so it would have been nothing to him. He was quite upset, reverting to the subject on the way home with me that day.
Of all the people who have influenced my life for good, these are the two greatest, though there are several others high on the list. Their gentleness, unconditional love, and quiet, matter-of-fact giving profoundly shaped me. Mommie and Les, I want to be just like you. And I can’t wait for the day we meet again and I get to see you exalted, as Jesus promised.
Sleep well. I’ll see you in the morning.
To consider: Who are the saints in your life that have shaped you and helped to make you what you are today? In what ways do you honor them by imitation? Have you thanked them directly?