Love the people God
because He will need
them back one day.
I knew it was coming. After all, she was 94 years old and had been in ill health for some time. Yet knowing her death was coming, and now having her gone, are two entirely different things.
Elaine Seppa was like a second Mom to me. I met her
years and years ago when I was friends with her son, Tim. I was in high school at the time, and had only recently given my heart to Jesus at Malibu, a Young Life camp in Canada. The minute I met Elaine, I could tell something was very different about her.
Elaine loved Jesus and that love radiated from her like the warm sun in the sky. Karl, her husband, was like that too.
I remember standing at the sink in her kitchen as she washed dishes after a meal. She wanted to know about my new faith in the Lord and shared just tid bits of how much her own faith meant to her.
Here was a woman, so many years older than I was,
who knew and loved the same Jesus that I knew and loved.
I was totally overwhelmed with gratitude to God that
He had placed Elaine in my life.
Years came and went and amazingly her son, who had been my friend, became my husband. Elaine was officially now my mother-in-law, but I never thought of her like that.
She was always "Mom."
Calling her this revered title meant no disrespect for my own beloved Mom. I adored my Mom, Dolores, and my Mom adored me. While my Mom had always been a Catholic, her relationship with God was more a matter of tradition than a matter of the heart. My Mom struggled a bit when I kept talking about my faith as being something real and alive.
Elaine's faith and relationship with God was very personal and it helped so much that she could share that faith with me. She was a child of God and Jesus was her Savior. He was at the center of her life. He was the root of her strength.
When I was around Elaine I could see God working and her faith in action. That was the kind of faith I wanted to have. Also, as an only child, I was hungry for having a family with sisters and brothers.
So besides marrying Tim, I married Steve, Dave,and Kathy (affectionately known as Bazz.) I was in love with all of the Seppas. They were such a great addition to what family meant to me. They were all people of faith and sharing faith was as natural as passing the bowl of mashed potatoes at dinner.
So it was a shock to absolutely everyone when Tim decided, about six months into our marriage and six months into medical school, that He no longer believed in God.
It broke Elaine's heart to hear her son say those words. How could this beloved son who had been choosing between being a doctor and being a minister no longer believe in the very God who had created him? She still loved Tim with all of her heart, and I'm sure she prayed a million prayers for Him to know the Lord again.
Not only was Elaine's heart broken, my heart was broken too. She and I talked about this, and prayed about her son finding God again. Her heart broke even more when she learned how my marriage to Tim was unraveling and that after years of struggle, Tim and I were getting a divorce.
It was a shattering time for everyone.
Yet like a true Mom, Elaine never stopped loving me
or thinking about me as her daughter. She never ever, not even for one moment, loved Tim less because he struggled with his faith. He was her "Timmy" and she adored him. And Tim was an amazing son to Mom, attentive and caring. She loved us both, even when it wasn't easy to do so. She prayed for us both without ceasing.
I have a picture of Elaine on a post I wrote on this blog on December 9, 2007. After Karl went home to God, after a courageous battle with cancer, from time-to-time Elaine would visit Spokane. The picture on that blog post shows Elaine at a soccer game that one of her great grand children was playing. In the photograph, she and I are talking and smiling.
We look completely at ease with each other.
Years later, as Elaine's health declined and she had a series of strokes, Mom was in nursing care at the Hearthstone in Seattle. When I came to Seattle, I visited her there.
While she sometimes wasn't as coherent as usual, at other times she was completely lucid. She'd say, "Oh honey, you have come to see me. I love you so." And then we would visit. Often, when I was ready to leave, we would sing and hum "Amazing Grace," one of her favorite hymns. It is one of my favorites, too.
On my last visit with Mom, a few months ago, I knew, just knew, deep in my heart that I was saying goodbye to her. My wonderful friend Sharon, a long time friend who lives in Seattle, dropped me off at the Hearthstone. Mom was lucid but it was getting harder and harder to hear her.
Yet when I leaned over, she said those same welcoming words...
"Oh honey, you have come to see me. I love you so."
We did what we always would do, talked and chatted and sang Amazing Grace and a few of her other favorite hymns like How Great Thou Art.
Just a few weeks ago, Elaine's health took a sudden turn for the worse. Family gathered, knowing that they wanted to be there with her and surround her with love. Jessi, my oldest daughter, went over with her Dad while Amy got all of the children together, including darling Annora Grace, and drove in awful, snowy weather to be with Grandma.
It was time to say goodbye. It was time to let her know, once again, how much she meant to everyone.
And it was Elaine's time to go home to God. On my last visit with her I whispered to her that when she was ready, and it was God's timing, she would go home to be with Jesus. She would see Dad again as well and she would be wrapped in God's loving arms. She looked at me with such a knowing smile when I said that to her.
And some months later, as she took her last breath, that's what happened. She went home to God and Dad.
I can't stop crying buckets of tears as I write this.
How blessed I was to have Elaine and Karl, my second Mom and Dad, as my "faith angels," as I liked to call them.
How blessed I was, and am, to be part of their special family.
One Sunday at our church, about a year ago, we were asked to bring a picture to church of those folks who had been our "faith angels," our guides in our Christian faith. Those folks whose own faith had helped to keep our faith alive. Those folks who lived for God and Jesus.
That next Sunday, when the pictures went on the church wall, my granddaughter Sihin and I walked up and placed my photograph of Elaine and Karl up there. Underneath the picture, I wrote the words...My Faith Angels...Karl and Elaine Seppa.
After church that Sunday, Sihin and I talked about how Elaine was my second Mom and I started to get chocked up. I explained to Sihin that what I had learned from my second Mom was all about loving God with your whole heart and mind and soul and accepting Jesus as your Savior. She taught me about faith and hope and love and that the greatest of these is love.
I will miss her forever.
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...