Fourscore and five years ago she opened her eyes for the first time in Pueblo, Colorado on February 15, 1927. Maybe the light was a little too bright for Valeda Flora Sills Jensen, my mother-in-law. She was a beautiful little girl, full of life on her parents’ rabbit farm.
By the time she was ready to leave high school, most of her world had been changed forever by the war. In June she married a B-17 tail gunner in North Hollywood. His name matched his attitude: Buster. She called him Big Boy.
Since I was quite taken by her youngest daughter, Linda, I did my best to remember her name, but usually resorted to calling her my mother-in-law or the Lady of the North, a name which she liked. She was both a widow and landlord when I met her for the first time. She seemed tough and tenacious, yet thoughtful. She seldom moved from her favorite spot on the sofa in the living room. She liked boloney, KFC, and strawberry milkshakes. Her television set was always on. When she got up it was for the mail, pulling weeds, and watering the yard. Her dream was to be a housewife, which came true for fifty-four years. After a time she decided to give me a nickname that matched our mutual trust and respect for each other. At first I thought she was thinking about one of our favorite restaurants since she called me Big Boy.
My mother-in-law had her moments. She got mad or sad and could be snappy or happy. But she was always kind and fair with everyone. I guess her love for me is the reason she started doing things no one thought possible. On one cold Halloween night, she left the sofa to come outside and see from her bundled-up chair in the driveway, all the little kids in the neighborhood, including one with a pet armadillo! Talk about a real treat! Later on Christmas Eve she showed up at the church to watch the little Sunday School children dressed up like reindeer sing Christmas carols. She also heard her two daughters and a friend singing in a church trio. I will always treasure a comment she made after the service: Big Boy seems to be at home in the church.
Then one summer she did one more thing that surprised all in the family. She asked me to baptize her, explaining that since it meant so much to me then let’s do it! On one of my visits, she was baptized as an 84-year-old child of God. It was on June 6, 2011.
We had many conversations in the twelve years I knew her and then, one Sunday morning she called on last time. Her voice was trembling, as she spoke. “I need to talk to Big Boy,” she said. “I’m dying.” She listened carefully. Words of peace and comfort became more precious than time itself. I reminded her that she was a baptized child of God. And if I cared for her, just think how much more God cared for her; especially now. Since I could never forget her kindness to me, just think how much more he must cherish her. By his grace through faith, she had no reason to be afraid. Soon, very soon, she would be home in heaven. It would be bright and beautiful. She was calm. She was able to rest.
Early on the morning a few days later, October 25, 2012, the phone rang once more. I knew what it meant without lifting the receiver. Mom was at home.
Your Pastor and friend,