She hated coconut…and rice…oh, and the Michigan Wolverines. As a genuine Ohio State fan who spent the majority of her years in Columbus, Ohio, hating Michigan was practically a biblical command…in a football kind of way. She liked to keep me guessing when Christmas and birthdays rolled around. She often downplayed her desire for any gifts on special occasions…but she would open them with the zeal of a 10 year old that made me smile many times over. Yep…that was Patty…my mother-in-law. Known as “Mrs. Patty” by many, she had endearing qualities that made you not only like her…but love her. On Sunday morning, March 1st, Patty passed away at the University of Kentucky Hospital a little after 5am. I had the privilege of standing by her bed when she breathed her last. As I watched her breathing become more and more shallow, I found myself replaying the tapes in my mind of this precious, godly lady who was about to step into eternity.
I met Patty back in my Clear Creek Baptist Bible College days after I started dating her daughter, Kris. She had an infectious smile and a sweet spirit so unique, you would think that God had made them up just for her. In time, when marriage became a topic of conversation between Kris and I, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of mother-in-law Patty would be. I had heard of countless horror stories of mother-in-laws being nosey, demanding, controlling, and the like for years. Hollywood movies like “Monster-in-Law” and “Sweet Home Alabama” portrayed some mother-in-laws in such a bad light that even those head-over-heels in love might have second-guessed tying the knot out of fear of the dreadful mother-in-law.
By God’s grace, that never happened to me. Patty was just as wonderful as a mother-in-law to me as she was a friend to me during the dating phase. In fact, I don’t ever remember having a cross word with her…ever. That very thought went through my mind as I stood by her bed Sunday morning. Not even once did we argue…
But there was much more to Patty than being a nice lady. She was above all things a child of God, a Christian lady…a godly woman. At this very minute her Bible is laying on the table next to the chair she slept in. It lies just where she left it. I’m sure when she left her apartment early on Tuesday morning, she had no way of knowing she would not be returning. After we all moved to Monticello, Patty was never quite able to always go to church. Her health had started to decline many years ago. Though suffering from hearing loss, bad knees, a degenerative spine, a broken hip, and a few other things…Patty persevered. She never “stopped.” The physical ailments alone were enough to make many give up…but not Patty. She would sometimes admit to be hurting more than usual…but she never complained. She wasn’t that kind of lady. She endured the bad days…and kept going. I admired her for how she handled the move to Monticello. A move that late in life was a difficult thing indeed…but she handled it with her usual grace and dignity.
In recent days, I have heard of professional athletes and celebrities who have openly renounced their faith as Christians. God was great when they were young and didn’t know any better. But as they aged, they came to realize just how special they were. Their success in sports, the big screen, or behind a microphone led them to believe they didn’t need God…success does that sometimes. This, along with the countless millions who idolize them and want to be like them, only add to the trend. Instead of being thankful for the gifts and abilities they do have…they believe they did it…they get the glory…and the praise. In addition to the celebrities of our day, many average families are no longer active in their faith. They speak of Christ and church attendance in a past-tense tone and will often share what they “used” to do as circumstances in life changed the course of their faith and commitment.
Patty’s faith never wavered. Her many health concerns were never a platform to be mad at God…as some describe it. She simply pressed on in a quiet, unassuming way. When she could physically go to church…she did. When her pain was too great…she would watch our church services on her tablet or Charles Stanley on TV. Many times I could hear the bones in her spine and knees crunch. She would moan…even cry…but she never quit. God was always “good.” Just 2 short weeks ago, she told me she had watched the sermon I had just preached and called it “good preaching” (yes she was biased!) 🙂 I blushed as it humbled me to pieces that she would take the time to watch our church services in the shape she was in.
As dear saints like Patty leave this earth, a void remains here. Others must step up and continue to advance the kingdom of our gracious God. Who will do it? Recently I was preparing a sermon and digging through multiple commentaries as I studied. One of the authors asked in a very convicting question, “Where are the greats in our day? Where are the Augustines? Where are the Luthers and Calvins? Where are the Whitfields and Wesleys?” Where have all of those sincere and devout Christians gone? These questions come to every generation of church history. I feel very blessed to be able to write about Patty. She really was one of the greats…and I had the privilege of being in her family. She was never “out front”…but she was always there…working, serving, and believing. I think of her as a spiritual Hercules. She humbled herself before God…and God gave her strength…just as He said He would do. Now God has ceased her pain and is blessing her with a promised rest.
Indeed…”A Mighty Fortress is Our God…”
Blessings Monticello! As always, thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.