A few years ago Gloria made a short video, “Understanding God’s Gifts,” where she spoke of her cancer as a gift. ( http://www.icochotnews.com/?q=node/2725.) While cancer has taken our dear friend and certainly doesn’t feel like a gift, I have a feeling that today Gloria sees it as a priceless gift—her vehicle to glory—a gift of inexpressible value.
I am also quite sure, though we grieve the loss of her physical presence, that we have received an amazing and valuable gift that will keep on giving—the “Gift of Gloria.” Gloria’s life was (and will continue to be) a gift. A testimony. A sermon. A source of comfort. An example. An upward call. A reminder. A smile producer. A reminder of all good things in Christ. An encouragement as we finish our race. A mentor. A friend…and much more. My eyes have shed many tears, as there will be a gap until I see my dear friend again—but my heart is full remembering beautiful, effervescent, radiant, and glorious Gloria.
Gloria’s life had the ripple effect, amidst joy and in suffering.
…and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:2-5)
As Gloria, through God’s spirit, only let suffering cause her to grow in all these qualities, she (through God’s pitcher… as she so beautifully expressed) poured this love out onto countless others. As she poured out God’s love, the outpouring created a ripple effect—crossing oceans and spanning continents.
Several of her character qualities that stand out to me and have called me higher are:
- Humility. Soon after I met Gloria, in the late 80’s, I remember being at a staff meeting with her in Lexington, Massachusetts. The staff had grown quickly, as many ministers migrated to Boston, and soon overwhelmed the little office building. The administrative staff struggled to get work done on Tuesdays (staff meeting days) because of the traffic of people wandering upstairs through their offices, especially to use the phones. (This was in the days before cell phones.) In response to this difficulty, the church installed a pay phone (yes, they were a thing back in the day) in the downstairs staff room. I remember Gloria (who was an elder’s wife by then), looking for a dime to make a call. One of the administrative staff told her that she was welcome at any time to use the upstairs phones. But Gloria used the downstairs pay phone. She would never want to be or cause one to stumble through any sense of entitlement. Gloria’s definition of leadership matched Jesus’ definition. Gloria always saw herself through her deep understanding of her personal discipleship—a servant of Jesus.
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45 NLT)
Gloria always saw herself as a servant of Jesus. No wonder she was so joyful!
‘…In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
- Laughter. How her joy radiated. My first taste of this came soon after we moved to Boston. I don’t remember the occasion, but we were seated on stage at a Sunday service in the Boston Garden. Gloria’s chair had inadvertently been set up with the back legs of the chair too close to the back edge of the stage. Yes, in front of thousands of people (though we found out that amazingly many had missed the crazy happening) her chair went backward and she fell back, her legs flying in the air. Thankfully, she was not hurt at all and we laughed hard afterward. Gloria could laugh at herself, and she could find the joy in most any situation. I will miss laughing with Gloria. She would place herself with and beside those who were hurting and struggling—and help them find the peace and joy Jesus offers. Her life was surrendered to Jesus, leaving her with the freedom to laugh at the days to come…and to enjoy God’s sense of humor through his creation.
- An expresser of the Word of life. Gloria always had a scripture on her heart. She knew that the power of God was expressed through his Word. She understood that the impact of her words came through God’s words. I can rarely recount a conversation with Gloria where scripture was not used. It just flowed from her heart and through her lips. This scripture expresses well her heart.
Be blessed, GOD; train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.
Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. (Psalm 119:12-18 MSG)
Because of this, she offered hope. Solutions. She knew God was the fixer. She offered his words of life, without grumbling. Yes, she shined like the stars in the sky as she firmly held to the Word of life. She certainly did not run or labor in vain. Countless lives testify to this truth.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)
- A learner. Gloria knew a lot. However, she never felt she had it all wrapped up. Gloria was always eager to learn. Her pursuit of growth, her study of the Word, her sharing of weaknesses and ways she longed to grow, her vulnerability, her listening ear—all testified to her eagerness to learn. Suffering taught her. Things gone awry taught her. Joy taught her. Trials taught her. Children taught her. The newest Christian taught her. A struggling Christian taught her. Life taught her. I believe this heart to learn kept her spirit exuberant. She awaited the new treasures of wisdom God had in store each day. Learning was great, because not only did she draw closer to the heart of God, but she had more to give! And giving was her life.
- A friend, mentor, and confidante. Now my tears flow. Gloria was my friend. She cared about my life. She asked about my life. She cried with me. She prayed with me. She laughed with me. She added flavor and zest to life. I confided in her, as she was a safe place. But as a true friend, she did likewise with me. Gloria was authentic. As a daughter of God, a wife, mother, Nonna, sister, friend…and many other roles, she was the real deal. The heart of her husband trusted in her. Her children and grandchildren have risen up and called her blessed.
Gloria will forever live in my heart, and I know I am one of many who share this sentiment. I’m grateful, Gloria, that you know I feel this way about you. I so wish I could celebrate your life with many others next week, but I can’t leave home now. You know that, and would advise me such. We miss your physical presence deeply, glorious Gloria, but now thrill that you are with him in Paradise. This is what you lived for, and you did it! You have finished the race. You did not stumble in, but in the words of Hunter Thompson…
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!”
And more spiritually stated by the Apostle Paul,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.
And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT)
You have finished well, dear Gloria. I’ll see you later, my friend. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your example, Thank you for your life. It’s changed mine.