Today marks exactly one year since we last heard the voice of Hazel Hale, my mother-in-law. (February 20, 1920 – December 1, 1018) As Barbara, a daughter-in-law, and Barbara’s sister, Gloria, read aloud through the Psalms, Hazel took her last earthly breath and stepped into eternity.
Though we can no longer sit beside her bed, or at a picnic table beside a creek bank absorbing a lifetime of accumulated wisdom, we can remember. We can draw from the memories of things she taught us by living it out every day of her 98 years.
On one occasion in November 2018, I had taken her to church. On the way home she gave me this list:
- Eat lots of chocolate
- Whatever you do, don’t give up
- Stay in touch with friends and family
- Always try to look your best – get dressed every morning
- Do things you love
- Participate in adventures
- Don’t meddle or be a busy-body
- Share your gifts as long as you can
- Spend time giving attention to little children
- Don’t fall
- Pray often, pray sincerely
On an adventure just a few years earlier, Mom H (Hazel Hale) and I went on a journey to Virginia. As we traveled, she expressed the one thing she always enjoyed in her earlier years was having picnics along gurgling creek banks. On that day, we did just that.
Let me share that memory today.
“Down by the Creek Bank” is a kids song written by Dottie Rainbow and David Huntsinger more than 25 years ago. It captures our imaginations as we think back to a time when we might have waded across a creek, climbed up on a tree limb above a rippling brook, or stretched out on a blanket and taken a nap under a canopy of leaves, down by the creek bank. Recently I took my 94-year-old mother-in-law on an adventure. We made the trip from Kentucky to Virginia and back in four days. Our adventure took us to out-of-way waterfalls, across historic ferry-boat rides, to the tops of mountains, across several covered bridges, to rippling brooks, and to an overnight bed and breakfast in historic Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Ageless Advice From A Ninety-Year-Old
When one spends that much time with a senior of her age group, the chatter will eventually lead to serious discussions. These conversations encompass everything from cooking trends, to family advice, changes she has seen in America, and advice she would give if she had just a few moments to share the highlights. Such was a conversation she and I had while sitting down by the creek bank in Covington, Virginia.
As we were traveling home, I asked her to take my paper tablet and jot down her top six pieces of advice; things she has learned in her lifetime. To the casual reader, this list seems brief for one who has lived 94 years but keep in mind, each item came with a story of personal experience and accumulated wisdom.
Mom Hale’s List of Advice – (in her own words)
1. Pay your bills on time – avoid interest rates.
For all of us who know this lady, we understand she is a savvy businesswoman. She has been frugal – yet generous. God has given her much wisdom in handling financial resources.
2. Go to church regularly – the weeks go better.
Her stories about the difficult periods in her life when things didn’t turn out the way she had dreamed, hoped, imagined – were always made better by her faith in God, and fellowship with God’s people in her church.
3. Don’t be too trusting – but hope and pray there is some good in everyone.
There have been times she has been taken advantage of by people who turned out to be “scalawags”…but not often. Her words were, “pick up the pieces, move forward, be wiser next time around.”
4. Don’t speed. A few extra minutes gained is not worth the danger.
“There’s just not any place we need to be that we have to get to in such a hurry that we break laws or endanger ourselves or another person.”
5. Don’t text and drive
“Thousands of people are killed every year – usually the conversation is not even that important.”
6. Remember that little things are more important than you realize.
The stories that followed this piece of advice probably made the most lasting impression on my heart. Mom Hale shared about a time when she sat down and wrote a simple little encouragement card to a friend. Years later, she discovered the friend had taken the card out and read it again and again through the years – anytime she was experiencing a discouraging point in her life. As Mom Hale shared this story, there were tears in her eyes, and emotion in her voice. “You just never know what little thing may be a big thing to someone else.”
As I think of the reasons I have taken this trip to Clifton Forge, Virginia, I realize that I am chasing memories of a great lady named Hallie Rogers – a lady who died at age 94; a lady of great kindness. Mom Hale and I have journeyed on not only this adventure but many others like it in the past. I am keenly aware that I am sitting here with yet another 94-year-old lady; a lady of great wisdom.
Proverbs 31:26 reminds us that a virtuous woman “opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” God has placed in my life two women at two different times who have been godly influences of what it looks like for the “elder women to teach the younger women” (Titus 2: 3-4). I am truly blessed that God has allowed these two women to play a role in shaping me into who I am.
My youngest daughter, Sharon, made many videos of Hazel through the years. Click the link if you’d like to remember the joys on this memorial day of her Homegoing.
I’ve been thinking…if I had just a few moments to list a few pieces of wisdom I have learned in my lifetime…what would that list look like? It might be interesting to take your life-lessons and create your own list to share with your family. Do you have some ideas you’d want to share? We’d love to hear.