Last week I preached the funeral of a dear friend and sister in Christ. The Lord used her as a constant reminder of his amazing grace to me and so many others. I knew her as Mrs. Jo, and she passed away at the age of ninety-eight.
Every Thursday she came to Bible study eager to learn. Unless she had a doctor’s appointment, she made it a priority not to miss. Her hunger for the Word was evident. I would enter the Fellowship Hall to the smell of brewing coffee and see Mrs. Jo sitting in her chair with her large-letter Bible wide open. Though she had lost much of her hearing, she would insist on sitting at the table directly in front of me so she could read my lips as I taught. During the lesson, her eyes were locked in as she sought to take in every word.
After our study, she would tell me how thankful she was about all she was learning. We would sit around a white, round table and, with tears in her eyes, she testified of the Lord’s grace to save someone like her. She never felt worthy and regularly articulated how much she didn’t deserve it. His amazing grace often seemed unbelievable to her.
Mrs. Jo didn’t come to know the Lord until she was eighty years old. She would regularly tell me how the Lord saved her after a lifetime without ever picking up a Bible. In those eighty years, she raised a family, had a successful career and experienced happiness. She also experienced deep sadness burying loved ones and losing children. But, as she reflected on her life, she wondered how she did it so long without knowing the Lord. She marveled at the fact that the Lord kept her alive all those years and granted her repentance so late in life.
Mrs. Jo often struggled to understand her purpose in life and what the Lord had planned for a woman of her age. I encouraged her that every day the Lord gives us is a gift to enjoy him and an opportunity to glorify him. If he hasn’t taken us home yet, there’s a reason for it. She would smile and nod in agreement. Eventually, she joined a hat-makers group in our church that knits winter hats and sends them all over the world, starting with the schools in our community. Mrs. Jo spent hours crocheting hats and often came to the weekly gatherings having made more hats than all the others in the group combined! She had years of experience and a love for knitting that the Lord used to bless others. I can’t help but smile when I imagine a child overseas staying warm in the cold because of a hat knit together by a sweet ninety-six year old lady on the other side of the world.
Anyone who had a relationship with Mrs. Jo knew she loved them. Anytime she left your presence she would look at you with her fierce, bold eyes and whisper, “I love you.” At her funeral, many testified to hearing these words and cherished such precious memories.
Those who knew her also stayed informed about her daily walks in the neighborhood. She kept moving even into her mid-nineties and stayed healthy and strong. She would often invite much younger friends to walk with her and would tell them, “I’ll go slow so you can keep up.” After her death, a fellow church member rejoiced that Mrs. Jo is now taking her daily walks on the streets of gold. Indeed she is.
Thank you Mrs. Jo for your example of love and grace. You were a blessing to me and, I know, to many others. I look forward to the day when I can take a walk with you on those golden streets, and I hope I’ll be able to keep up.