I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, "How many good things have you done in your life?" rather He will ask, "How much love did you put into what you did?" ~Mother Teresa
Ten years ago yesterday my mother-in-law went to be with Jesus. Helen Kuhn was quite the lady. Married at 17, she became a pastor's wife to three churches (yes, at the same time!). For the next 65 years she sheltered others with joy.
1. She loved people. Oh my, did she ever. She genuinely cared about everyone. From the littlest to the oldest she was interested in their lives. Week after week she would pick up kids on Saturday night to ensure their Sunday morning church attendance. She bought church clothes for them to wear on Sunday and made sure they had a good breakfast, and of course took time to make sure their hair was neat.
One Saturday night one of the girls locked herself in the spare bedroom and couldn't get it unlocked. RB was dismayed to find out that his 80-year-old mother climbed out the window, onto the porch roof, walked around to the bedroom window and climbed in, and rescued her guests.
When RB's father died at age 85, he was pastoring a church in Struthers, Ohio (one he had served 37 years prior to that time). The church folks wanted her to remain with them, so arranged to use Bible School students or retired pastors for a while to fill the pulpit. All other duties were left to Mom Kuhn. She called on people all over the city. Struthers/Youngstown were not known to be safe twin cities; in fact, at one time Youngstown was even called the murder capital of the US. One night a man got so mad at her he slammed the door in her face, and when he did, the door knob fell off in his hand. She loved it! (For some reason, RB failed to see the humor!)... And once again we cringed knowing what could happen to her.
2. She shared what she had. Multiple times whenever RB's dad noticed a cake on the counter, he’d joked, "Who's that for?!" Homemade bread, jelly, pickled beets and eggs; whatever she made was shared. Buttermilk fudge was her specialty. Oh yum!
3. She was thrifty. Mom Kuhn could make a dollar go further than anyone. She cut coupons, shopped where the bargains were, and stockpiled when she found a sale. So many of those items found their way into my home. Tights for the girls, strawberries for me or lima beans for RB. She picked strawberries, apples, peaches and anything else that picking made cheaper.
She also loved to thrift shop. I think she knew about every pastor's size in the church conference (district). Every camp meeting she'd have a trunk full of suits, dress pants, white shirts or shoes to hand out.
Ask RB about the year they had turnips and turnips, and did I say turnips? The man that plowed their garden (horse-drawn plow) had turnip seeds in his pocket and every time he’d lean forward to get a good grip on his hand-operated tiller, some of the seeds would fall out of his pocket. Of course they couldn't waste the turnips so she mixed them with everything--even sneaked them into mashed potatoes. He was sure glad to see the end of the turnips.
|At my parents|
Writing one of the hundreds of cards she sent out each year
4. She used her tools and gave freely. Mom Kuhn's sewing machine got so much use. She was always sewing for someone. Sewing modest dresses, shortening sleeves of dress shirts and pants she found in thrift stores so they’d be “tailor made,” making gifts of oven door hanger towels, children's nighties -- her sewing machine was always humming. As I reflect, I can see her digging through her stash to find the perfect fabric for the project she was working on.
5. She loved her son (and daughters, most certainly). RB's birth certificate announced, The Crown Prince Has Arrived. They finally had their son -- at almost grandparent age. But she loved RB enough to discipline him. When others praised or bragged on RB's musical talent, she was quick to remind him to consecrate his talent to God. When RB questioned someone's actions his mother quoted, "Others may, I cannot." She made him practice his piano lessons -- with lima beans on the piano. When he played a song once, he’d slide a bean to the other side, until all 5 (painfully, through tears) beans made their transition! All her work paid off, as RB fell in love with keyboarding. If RB's hair got too long to suit her she'd ask, "Are you going to get a violin or a dog collar?"
6. She loved me. If I ever did anything to displease my mother-in-law, I wasn't aware of it. One of the nicest things she did for me was have a sweet talk with RB before we were married. She told him to never say, "My mom doesn't do it that way," or "My mom's doesn't taste like this." She sewed clothes for me, crocheted beautiful pieces for my home, and taught me to prepare Fordhook lima beans and sweet tea the southern way.
|Grandma Kuhn with Melanie (15) and Emily (6)|
|Grandma Kuhn with Adesh|
Not only were my children spoiled, but the children of RB's sisters got their share. Fruity Pebble marshmallow treats for Jesal and Adesh -- I don't remember what Samiksha's favorite was, and the other grandkids were grown up by the time I joined the family -- but I do know if Grandma was visiting, there were treats in the suitcase. She prayed for her grandchildren daily.
8. Most of all she loved her God. There was never a question about Mom Kuhn's love for God. His light shone in her eyes and was felt in her actions. She loved the Word and quoted it daily. Emily, who slept with Grandma Kuhn when they were together, remembers her quoting Scripture as they fell asleep.
I was privileged to shelter her along with her daughter, Marsha, when the colon cancer took its toll on her body. I cannot recall a cross word, not during the weeks in the hospital or throughout the time when she came home to our “hospital living room” for her last days. She was appreciative for each small task we did for her. We look back on what should have been a stressful time, but RB, Marsha and I remember it with peace. That seems like a funny word to use, but that's how the visiting nurses, our day nurse and the church people who gave so willingly of their visits and food gifts, described it.
Some people pass away and are remembered with fondness. Others, are remembered with poignant memories told again and again -- these are the shelterers. These are ones who loved extravagantly -- cared deeply and gave with joy. Helen Kuhn sheltered -- and the footprints she left behind ten years ago are still evident on the paths she trod.
* * * * *
When we were getting to my in-laws house late at night,
we'd be greeted with the warm, homey smell of Ski Soup -- RB loved it.
(I never wanted to eat that late at night, but enjoyed it the next day.)
|In Chicago with Marsha|
2 cups green lentils
1 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 medium potatoes into 1 inch cubes
8 to 10 cups water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Sauté garlic and onions over medium heat for about five minutes or until soft.
2. Add garlic and onions and sausage to stock pot with water.
3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer stirring occassionally for at least 1 hour. Like most soups of this type, this one will taste even better the second day when the flavors have had a chance to develop.