Friday, February 08, 2008

"Elegant persistence and unwavering kindness"

On January 21, Mrs. Zabel, the mother of my best friend, died. She was described as a "a devoted mother and homemaker [who] delighted in the lives and accomplishments of her children and grandchildren." I knew her as a beautiful, gracious woman who sat at the breakfast table on Saturday morning drinking coffee while this teenage friend of her youngest daughter had a morning cup of tea and waited for that youngest of eight children, my friend, Teresa, the late sleeper, to wake up. Oh, we had good times at the Zabel house. Softball games in the front yard, horseback rides around the neighborhood, swimming at the club down the road, picking cucumbers from the big garden and blackberries from the roadside, delicious healthy meals, flowers and plants. Mrs. Zabel loved her flowers and plants.

I have thought about how much the influence of my friend's mother had on me. She made having eight children seem like an awful lot of fun. I am sure her example played a big part in making the idea of having a large family appealing to me. Her boys teased her, her husband scowled and said, "I hate kids," and we all knew how much he loved his children and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Zabel's love and devotion to each other was so plain to see. I was blessed to spend so much time during my high school years in the Zabel home.

In his funeral message, Mrs. Zabel's grandson spoke of her relationship with the Lord and her humility. He spoke of the folded paper in her wallet between her Belks card and pictures of her grandchildren with verses from Isaiah 40 written on it. He called her a woman of "elegant persistence and unwavering kindness."

I have hung on to those words. They describe her so perfectly. Elegant persistence. Unwavering kindness. They speak of a woman who knew what she believed and clung to it with grace and strength; of a woman whose kindness touched everyone who knew her. I only hope, by the grace of God, that someday someone will say that I was such a woman. If they do, it will surely be, in part, because of her example.

Death brings friends together to grieve and laugh, to lean and to comfort. The time that Teresa and I got to spend together the day of the funeral and in the days afterward were very special. We were both reminded of how much we share and how much we miss each other. We live on opposite sides of the country but have grown even closer than ever over the years. We both had to laugh one morning after Teresa and her kids spent the night with the boys and me at my parent's house -we were getting dressed for the day and both of us had blue turtleneck sweaters, jeans, and black coats - totally unplanned! In high school people sometimes mistook us for sisters and sometimes we tried to fool people into thinking we were twins. I almost think we could still pull it off!

The picture of Mrs. Zabel, above, was taken when she was a young woman. Wasn't she beautiful? She remained beautiful, from the inside out, all her days. I was privileged to know her...and I am privileged beyond measure that her daughter is my life long friend.


Sharon said...

Beth - You are one of the nicest, kindest, most sincere, loving and devoted people I have met. You are the mother and wife I strive to be more like. You set a wonderful example for others. You have a way of putting everyone at ease no matter what the situation. I know you have the lasting effect on others that Mrs. Zabel had on you.

Amber Benton said...

Thank you for sharing such tender thoughts and words, Beth. Just think of the many young people visiting your own home and the vitality and love in eveidence there. Do you remember the article on Home from Books and Culture?