Legacy of faith


I was walking through a newsagency recently with my daughter who was intrigued to see an entire display of giftware designed for mothers. Mugs, coasters, pens, books and photo frames—the only limit is the imaginations of the merchandise designers. Far removed from all of this commercialisation of Mother’s Day is its origins. Anna Jarvis initiated the celebration in the US after her beloved mother died. The idea was inspired by a prayer spoken by her mother, Ann Jarvis: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers’ day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” 

Anna’s intention was for people to set aside this one day each year to honour “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Her intention was that people would either take time to visit or write a lengthy letter to their mothers. She expressly stated that she wanted Mother’s Day “to be a day of sentiment, not profit”. 

Of greatest importance in my grandmother's life, however, was her God and her relationship with Him . . . Her faith was integral to every element of her life . . .

Unfortunately, in later years, she was horrified by the commercialisation of Mother’s Day by companies such as Hallmark. She was arrested and eventually institutionalised over her despair at the profiteering going on around Mother’s Day, and even tried by petition to have the celebratory day rescinded.

Commercialisation aside, I am 100 per cent in favour of expressing appreciation for the efforts of my mother and all mothers on Mother’s Day. This Mother’s Day I would especially like to honour the memory of my grandmother. Some families are fortunate enough to have been blessed with a matriarch of great faith who provides a spiritual compass for subsequent generations. My family is one of them. I was asked last year to share a poem for the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral and as I wrote down random memories of my grandmother there were two things in particular that stood out as themes: her hospitality and faith. 

Every year or two throughout my childhood, her children and grandchildren would converge upon her home for fabulous gatherings of love, good food and good conversation. Family Christmases were the best with the token tree surrounded by brightly coloured packages, the decorated table with bonbons, abundant food, plenty of noise and undoubtedly bowls of lollies (well at least that’s what I remember). I remember her busily scurrying around her kitchen at unearthly hours of the morning to ensure there was a fabulous spread ready for breakfast during our visits. And in spite of the fact that she kept an immaculate home, I don’t recall ever getting into trouble for making a mess or traipsing dirt through the house. Family was a top priority for my grandmother and family was always welcome.

Of greatest importance in my grandmother’s life, however, was her God and her relationship with Him. Like the wise virgins of Matthew 25 she understood the wisdom of being prepared at all times for the coming of her Lord. Far too many of us have fallen into complacency and slumber like the foolish virgins in the parable. But not my grandmother. She faithfully attended church and studied her Bible throughout her life. Her faith was integral to every element of her life; conversation about personal or world events often drew a spiritual application and her stories were peppered with miracles.

One of her favourite stories was of the miraculous recovery of one of her son’s contact lenses. His corneas were conical and he had to wear special hard lenses to try to flatten them out. One day, as he travelled the Sydney rail system, he rubbed his eyes at some point and realised a lens was gone. He searched and searched in vain but eventually had to leave the train without it. When he reached home my grandmother was horrified, knowing the full value of the lens, both monetarily and also in terms of her son’s sight and function. 

When my grandfather got home from work they called the train depot and were discouragingly advised that the lens would never be found. Hundreds of passengers had boarded and disembarked the train before it terminated for the day. Her faith unfazed, my grandmother prayed a heartfelt prayer for guidance. She prayed that God would direct their needle-in-a-haystack search, and off they went to the train depot. When they arrived they were informed where to find the train in question, but also that the cleaners had been through the entire train and found nothing. 

So now there was also the risk that the cleaners might have swept the lens up or that it might have been damaged in the cleaning process. With a heavy heart my grandfather went to the exact carriage and seat where his son had told him he’d been sitting. Perhaps it is obvious that there was a jubilant shout of joy, for there sitting on the seat was the undamaged lens. Such was the legacy of my grandmother’s faith.

Israel always looked back to the example of their faithful forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In fact, the apostle Paul wrote of the spiritual greats of the Jewish faith: “All these people were still living by their faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13, 14, 16).

Similarly, my family can look back on the faith and example of my grandmother. Although she is no longer with us physically, she has left with us the legacy of her unshakable faith, dynamic prayers, hospitality and miracle stories. 

So this Mother’s Day, in remembering the life of my grandmother and other women of faith like her, I would like to ask a few questions of both you and myself. What legacy are we leaving for our families? Will we be remembered for our faith and our service to the Lord? Is it obvious where our priorities lie, and what we value? Will our children and grandchildren even have a faith? If not, what could we do differently in our lives?

“. . . Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Kriselle Dawson writes from Mackay, Queensland, where she works as a pharmacist and volunteer freelance writer.