Wednesday, December 02, 2015


I wrote the following story the week that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, we did not know how bad the news was going to be, but we knew it wasn't good. About six week ago, I submitted it to Dunwoody United Methodist Church as a potential Advent season devotional.

It was published today, the day after she passed away. Timing is everything.

I miss you, Mom.

If you just read the official records, they are parents of two and grandparents of five. But the official records don’t tell the whole story. They are parents and grandparents to dozens if not hundreds of children that they have influenced throughout their lives. She has taught preschoolers to enjoy music for years, often with his help. He is the one that all of the kids run to hug when they see him coming. They have taught college Sunday school classes and have sung in numerous choirs. She has cooked meals for everyone she knows and many that she never knew. They have influenced more lives in more positive ways that they will ever know.

One visible sign of their influence is a little gray stuffed donkey. Each year at Christmas, she teaches her kids to sing “The Little Gray Donkey” as part of the Christmas concert at their church. Each year, she gives her kids a little gray stuffed donkey as a remembrance. And each year, some college student comes home and lets her know that the little gray stuffed donkey is one of the few things that they took with them to their dorm to remind them of home.

This year she wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t able to help with the Christmas concert very much. She started feeling bad and went to the doctor and the tests showed some very bad things. Cancer is very unpredictable. She may recover and be a part of many more Christmas concerts. Or there may not be many more. There’s no way to know for sure.
As usual, she is mostly worried about bothering other people. She reluctantly told her children, but asked them not to let the grandchildren know. She remained upbeat and strong to keep them from despairing. She didn’t want anyone at church to know because she didn’t want to bother them with her problems. But they found out anyway.

At the Christmas concert, it was time for the children to sing “Little Gray Donkey”. As they sang, audience members silently went to the altar and added their own little gray donkeys to the decorations. There were dozens of stuffed donkeys – some quite tattered from years of love. There were hand-drawn donkeys from folks who couldn’t be there. There were donkeys of all sizes and types. Most people in the audience didn’t know what was going on.
Sitting in the audience watching, she recognized the people, noticed their smiles in her direction, but didn’t understand why the script had changed this year. Until the pastor stood up and told the gathered crowd, 

“For many years, our children have sung this song at Christmas under the direction of their preschool music director. This year is special, and this year we wanted to give something back to her to let her know how much she is loved and how many people she has influenced through her attention, her patience, her talents, and her love for us. She didn’t want anyone to make a fuss over her this year, but I received a letter recently and I wanted to read it to you.”

He opened the letter and began reading, “If you just read the official records, they are parents of two and grandparents of five. But the official records don’t tell the whole story….”

No comments: