The sixth commandment is well known to all of us. We find it in Exodus 20:12:
Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (NASB)
This commandment took on new and additional meaning when I needed to write my mother’s obituary recently. (Click HERE to read it.) She died less than two weeks ago. To the casual observer she was simply a housewife, mother to my sister and me, and friend to many.
She wasn’t perfect—none of us are. She is now. I’ll leave it at that.
She deserves honor now, and she deserved honor during her lifetime. Scripture says so, and it is fitting. And honor she will get. I didn’t always honor her the way I should have. Shame on me.
Her life was typified by service. She served the many men and women who came through Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, Pennsylvania, where my father was the treasurer. MCC is a mission arm of the Mennonite church. When Dad worked there, there was a draft for the Vietnam War. Many folks came through to train to do alternate service to the military draft and were the beneficiaries of her serving heart.
She didn’t write books. She didn’t speak at conferences. She didn’t run a multinational company. She simply served. She frequently opened our home and dinner table to bless friends and neighbors with her unbelievable cooking. She offered a laundry service about which my father joked, “She doesn’t charge enough to pay for the hot water and electric she uses.” She could press a cotton dress shirt like nobody’s business.
What kind of legacy is that? I have little doubt that her legacy, like many of ours, will be forgotten 200 years from now. Just like the nameless faces of the old pictures she handed over to us of many of my relatives, she will only be known to her posterity by what we tell them and, in turn, what they tell theirs. No history book will note her life. You will never celebrate Odena Detweiler Day.
Ecclesiastes 1:11 tells us this is the end for all of us:
There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance
Among those who will come later still. (NASB)
Serving others is a calling, a very high calling. It demonstrates loving our neighbor in a very clear way. It resonates with believers and unbelievers alike, bringing the glory to God that He deserves. Her life was typified by such service consistently and often.
I still vividly remember a sermon example from Steve Brown while attending Key Biscayne Presbyterian near Miami, Florida, in the late 70s. He talked about asking God who the greatest Christian that ever lived was. And God simply answered, “You never heard of them.”
Maybe you have now.
By Marlin Detweiler