John Certalic - caringforothers.org
My mother-in-law, Elda Millane, is dying. One of the kindest people I have ever known, Janet’s mom turned 95 last month and is now in hospice care. I am preparing to do her funeral. I plan to talk about her kindness.
Elda embodies what Galatians 5:22 talks about when Paul says that among other things, the fruit of the Spirit includes kindness. The original language of this verse defines kindness as “benevolence in action to meet human need without expecting anything in return.” That’s Elda. Her picture should be next to chrestotes in the Greek lexicon, even though she’s not Greek. Tomato sauce runs through her full-blooded Italian veins.
I’ve known her since I was in 11th grade. When Janet and I married and then became parents with way too little money, Elda’s kindness stepped into high gear. She had us over for dinner often. She bought our children clothes when we couldn’t afford to. She babysat our kids so we could do the things 20-something parents do. Many of our our 20- and 30-something friends have no parents nearby to help out with their kids as we did. As I watch their lives, I appreciate Elda’s blessing more now than when we received it.
I don’t know how much longer Janet’s mom will be with us. She has heart disease on top of the Alzheimer’s that has taken much of her mind to another place. But it has not stolen her kindness.
She’s lives in a memory care unit of an assisted living facility, and we’ve seen her extend kindness to other residents and to the staff who work there. A lot of human dignity is lost in situations like this, and we’ve seen some of her fellow residents lash out at times because of it. But not Janet’s mom. In fact, they call her “Sweet Elda.” She can’t remember how to eat, or increasingly, who her daughter is. But she hasn’t forgotten how to smile, or how to be kind to people, all of whom are strangers to her.
Elda still enjoys music, and she remembers song lyrics. When we visited her on Mother’s Day, Janet got her singing “You are my Sunshine.” When Elda sang the song, she taught me a second verse I didn’t know existed. It’s a sad verse about loss. When she passes on we will certainly feel the loss of her kindness.
During their Mother’s Day duet the expression on Elda’s face, and Janet’s too, revealed the tenderness and kindness they both have for each other. Kindness begets kindness, and to see it on display as I did embedded a sweet memory in my soul I won’t soon forget.