|Photo by Elena Prokofyeva|
For the second person in my legacy series, I'd like to write about my friend Betty. Betty passed away in November in her 90's. It may seem odd, but I still don't believe she has passed. I know it in my head, but in my spirit she lives on. It feels as though I should still see her walking down the halls of my old church when I visit. I guess I haven't quite reached the acceptance stage of grief for Betty.
A huge part of Betty that will live on is her humbleness of spirit. Even when she passed, she did not want attention drawn to herself. A funeral was not supposed to be held to remember her, so we gathered for lunch in the fellowship hall of her church to celebrate her life through fellowship and shared remembrances. In some ways, I felt a little hurt by this. Betty deserved to have a full-out funeral and to be remembered for the amazing person that she was. But, that's not what she wanted. The time we did share was nice and I think she may have approved.
When I think about the legacy Betty left, I first think of the many people she touched in quiet ways. She was a "worker bee" type who spent many hours volunteering at the church. Being on staff at the time, I saw her at random times throughout the day and week, working on various tasks. As a staff, we would often point out that we needed to try and make a list of all that Betty did in case she ever passed and we didn't even know all of the small tasks that we'd have to find someone else to fulfill. That was her way of serving. She had her tasks and she did them well. She also loved the fellowship of being at the church, especially after her son passed. Betty loved to talk and I had many conversations with her in the front office, in the hallways, or in my office, when she went up to check the balcony. Conversations with Betty led to a wide range of topics. It may start out with frustration about the copier, but she would end up talking about her past and her travels or how much she loved the kids in her neighborhood. I have to laugh because some days I had to calculate whether I had the time to go down and make a copy when Betty was there, because a two minute task could turn into 30 minutes! But I enjoyed talking with her and I knew deep down that even talking to Betty was ministry, because sometimes she just needed to talk.
To me, Betty was an encourager. As the youth director at the time, Betty would always tell me what a good job I was doing and how important she believed youth ministry was for teenagers, especially in our area. She really "got it." Something that not everyone does. She didn't believe teenagers were a nuisance, but people to be treasured and cared for. This was evidenced by her taking care of the balcony, a frequent hangout for the teens of the church. Instead of getting upset about the teens writing in the pew pads, she would read their notes and look at their drawings. The drawings often tickled her to laughter. The notes drew her to prayer. A few times she shared them with me out of concern. Youth ministry needs more Betty's.
Betty also encouraged those in her "inner circle" to step outside of themselves to care for her. She would never say she wanted this or asked for it, but as a widow living by herself, she needed her friends and fellow church members to step up and help her when she had one of her falls or when she needed reminders to eat more or a ride to the doctor. As a widow, God used many others to play a role in her care. I believe there is something beautiful in that.
A big part of Betty's legacy is her role as a military wife and a mother of an adopted son. I don't know a whole lot about this area of her life, but I know she gave it all she had. She took on the challenges of life as a military wife and worked extremely hard to make a good life for her family. Even in her widowhood, she still kept that up in her stubbornness and not wanting to ask for help. She had to do things on her own for many years through moves and deployments so why should now be any different? I also don't know the depths of her relationship with her son, but I know that she loved him with abandon. She worked hard to help him through all of his medical challenges and for years she spent most of her life taking him to and from doctors and dialysis appointments. She loved him despite many challenges and worked hard for her son.
Betty's roles as a humble worker bee, encourager, a catalyst for care and loving wife and mother will live on. She also really liked milk shakes from Chick-fil-A. Let's go have one in her honor!