When someone asks my mom about the secret to her long life she says, “Well, I just live life.”
Mom’s life has been one that would seem to many as full of adventure and excitement. I see it as one that has demanded a lot of bravery and trust, in her husband and in God’s leading. She lived in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising and in Nigeria during the Biafran War. She and my dad founded and Pastored a church in Danville, IL, that is still going strong, THE ROCK CHURCH. After pastoring they kept busy going wherever God led them. They went to Europe to help drive humanitarian trucks full of supplies across the newly opened Berlin Wall. They did mission work in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and helped plant a church in Germany. She speaks both Swahili and German fluently. At the age of 75, they moved back to Kenya where they founded an orphanage in Nairobi, KINGS KIDS VILLAGE. Mom wrote a book about it and you can find it on Amazon by clicking the title NEVER TOO OLD, by Eleanor Stern. The Lord gave her a promise about the orphanage:
“OUT OF THE FORGOTTEN WILL COME THE BEGOTTEN”
Mom was told early on in her marriage, after several miscarriages, that she would never have children but ended up having four. I am the eldest and the only girl. I have three amazing brothers, Phil, Jon, and Steve. Dad went to be with Jesus at the age of 86. They were married 64 years. When he went to heaven before her she had to adjust to living alone for the very first time in her life. Although they would talk and joke about who would “go first”, I think my mom always thought she would be the first and it was quite an adjustment for her. Two years after dad left us, my youngest brother Steve, her baby, died of ALS. I watched her cope with all this loss by leaning into God and trusting Him with all her grief and many unanswered questions.
Five years ago mom decided it was time to come back to the States from Kenya where she had been living off and on since my dad died. They had a home in Nairobi right next to my brother Jon and his family and Kings Kids Village. She naturally thought this would be where she would find purpose in this final season of her life. After several years she just didn’t feel right about staying there so she asked the Lord and felt His prompting to come back to Lincoln where she and dad had spent his final years. In retrospect, it was a very good decision. She moved into an apartment in Independent Living at a Retirement Home. She feels like God has her there and has found purpose. She is always ready to share her love for Jesus and to pray for anyone who asks. It’s been so good to watch her get more and more at home with her surroundings as she has adjusted to this final season of her life, BY LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME.
I’ve learned so many lessons by watching my mom go through this season of life. The biggest lesson has been learning to give her lots of grace and to be as understanding as possible. I keep reminding myself that it won’t be all that long before I am navigating this season in my life as well. Another lesson has been allowing her to be as independent as possible. I know it is different for everyone but my mom has flourished by living in her own space and being able to make her own daily decisions. That was hard for me because I felt like I was supposed to ‘take care of her’. So I have had to learn what she needs me to take care of and what she is capable of doing for herself. My brothers and I visit her as often as possible and my daughter lives near her in Lincoln.
Growing old and adjusting to the loss and change we will all face in our final years is challenging for everyone. If I can live them like my mom has, I will be doing a good thing….for me and everyone around me. She lives for today and that is all we are asked to do. And she is still doing what God has called her to do, even at 95!