1 Sam 20:3 “Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is but a step between me and death.”
As the past week for our family has progressed, these words of David have been our reality. As our Brazilian matriarch battled for her life through the waging war of cancer and phenomena assaulting her lungs, there has been a looming shadow. This darkened cast shadow which carried with it the words, ‘there is but a step between her and death’ finally brought the curtain down on a life well lived like the ending of a magnificent theatrical play. Sadly, for the family there was to be no encore, however, Marlene Leonart has just stepped into the best ‘production’ of all time, with Christ the Lord being the Director of both her life here on earth and her new life in heaven. The stage is set and He has a new role for His daughter to play.
Marlene always had a proclivity to enjoy some of the more flavourful and fancy things of life. She liked things to have a hint of finesse and flair. When I first met Marlene I was a twenty-year boy that didn’t speak a lick of Portuguese and she never really spoke any English. I remember the day that I heard her say some English words for the first time in my presence. I had to ask Luiza to confirm that what I heard was indeed, “Let’s kick it up a notch”. You can imagine my surprise at hearing such a phrase come from the lips of someone I never knew spoke English. It was explained to me that she was a big fan of Emeril Lagasse. “BAM”, now it made sense. What I didn’t realize was that I was about to enter into a new epoch of time that was going to include the ‘renewing’ and ‘expanding’ of my palate. I don’t have enough room in this tribute to name all of the dishes she loved making for me, but to know that my father and I will not receive another fruit filled sponge cake, or that I will never again have the rump steak, stuffed with a large carrot and sausage has now become a disheartening reality. She knew the foods that I liked and she went out of her way to prepare them for me and she also knew the dishes I ‘highly discouraged’ her to cook for me. The family know which three dishes they are. (I say with a cheeky grin).
In recent years we have been blessed enough to travel together as a family. One of Marlene’s greatest desires was to be able to travel to Portugal. A couple of years ago this desire became a reality as we spent some time as a family in Libson, feasting, I have to gluttonously admit, on Pastel de Nata. Oh, how we enjoyed those sweet delicacies. I remember taking her to the North-East of England and seeing her fall in love with all the free roaming sheep on the undulating English hills. We would all have a giggle every time we would have to either slow the car down or completely stop so that she could get a better look at these wandering lambs. However, the greatest moment of laughter both for Marlene and us was in Venice. If you have ever tried stepping into one of these perilously teetering gondolas, you’ll understand that they are not the easiest to board. Add to that the fact that Marlene never learned to swim and you have created a situation that invokes plenty of nervous laughter. But oh how she loved being on the gondola. Holding onto her bag (one of many, but that’s another story) she was thrilled to be ‘chauffeured’ around the watery streets of Venice as she took in the unique environment and history that presented itself at every turn. When Marlene smiled and laughed you could see the little eight-year old girl shining through.
Marlene was also a woman of God and woman of the sanctuary. She had the utmost respect for the Holy ordinances of Christ. Church for her was a place to praise the Lord, receive from Him and a place to seek out healing. She lived her life ‘in the church’ and was always willing to open up her home for the ministry of the Gospel and of course cook a great meal for any guest. Such was her reverence for the things of God inside the church, she took it upon herself to bless I.C.I. church with its first communion platter. This was something she felt that the Lord has asked her to do. To this day the church still serves communion from these plates.
After Jesus, her biggest love was her family. She loved her daughters unwaveringly and the bond that she created with her three princesses was strong. It is the strength of this bond which will make the process of her parting difficult for her daughters. Yes, they are losing their mother but they are losing a mother who stood by them in all that they did. She stood beside and loving served her husband, who at this moment in time will require our prayers as he navigates these new turbulent waters, and she also was a loving sister to her sister and brother. The void she leaves is large. But, dare I say, that nothing brought the light of life and joy to her eye quite like her grandchildren? What a grandmother she has been to all her grandchildren. They will forever have memories of pool parties, copious about of sweet treats and a plethora of kind and lovely words spoken to and over them. Being a grandmother was one of her greatest joys and the all the grandchildren will miss her dearly.
This week as we have walked this path together as a family we have been overwhelmed with memories of what once was and what now will cease. On my travels over the past few years I know that her prayers have sustained me, and even more so in some of my more recent ‘interesting’ travel locations. I will be forever grateful for those prayers. On my travels I started to collect ‘county wall plates’ for her and she would hang them in her kitchen. To know that she will not see in person the last plates I got for her and to know that this time of us collecting plates together has come to an end, is one of those ‘little-big-things’. Little in the sense that they were just wall plates, but big in the sense that it was ‘our collection’.
Now that the last grain of sand in her hour glass has fallen and her presence with us is no more, comfort is what we all seek. This week at OneHope we had our Half Day of Prayer and a line in a song that was sang ‘struck a chord’ in my spirit that I had to immediately text it to Luiza. The lyric was, “I am surrounded by the Arms of the Father; I am surrounded by songs of deliverance”. I felt that God was telling us that these were and are Marlene’s thoughts on her current state. God is so good. He knows just how to speak to us in times of need.
Knowing her love for the Lord softens this temporary sorrow and elevates our eternal joy.
Forever your Son-In-Law,