It was old and was in poor condition. I suppose it’s to be expected with standing for over a century. Besides, it was only occupied six months of the year. That was what brought us to the decision to sell my mom’s house. The house that had been part of our family for over forty years. The only house where most of my childhood memories lived. In preparation for that sale last summer, I spent some time at the homestead in Illinois to help my mom sort through her lifetime of “treasures.”
As I dug into one box, I pulled out a dirty, plastic grocery bag with the Sharpie-scribbled words “from Lake Erie” on it. I opened the wrinkled filthy mess to discover three smooth rocks. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the contents since Mom kept just about everything. And I mean everything. Yet I was shocked enough to iterate a “What in the world?” response. I showed them to mom, and we both laughed. She had no clue when she had acquired them, but their future was in her hands on this particular day. The goal was to drastically downsize the amount of her belongings in order to fit into my sister’s RV. That’s why I suggested she let me return them to their home. I live in a quaint town on the shore of Lake Erie, so it seemed like the logical thing to do. Little did we know that a few months later, Mom would no longer be with us.
After the funeral and I returned home to Ohio, I eventually started sorting through the boxes and boxes of stuff I had obtained from the old house. Pictures of ancestors (of course, many of them weren’t marked), school books, dishes, clipped poems upon poems, and the crumpled grocery bag with rocks from Lake Erie. With mom’s death so fresh, I couldn’t bring myself to return those stones to the water but couldn’t put them back in the old bag either. They are now displayed on my entertainment center as a reminder of my mom and that special time of sorting through her collection of life.
The story of the rocks is more than a story, though. It’s a precious memorial in honor of a life well-lived. She was the rock, the foundation of our family. Now, I am not one who sets up a memorial to the point where it becomes a shrine. Those rocks are on display in my living room because they also symbolize God bringing me through the new reality of having neither parent alive.
When Joshua and the Israelites successfully crossed the Jordan River to finally take hold of the land promised to them by the Lord, they gathered a bunch of rocks (twelve to be exact) from the middle of the river, then they placed them in a pile as a reminder.
“We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6-7 (NLT)
In the same way, these rocks from one of Mom’s trips to Lake Erie are a reminder of all of life’s trials I have come through with God’s help. Even one year later, it’s impossible to describe with words what it was like to watch her take her last breath. Those rocks remind me that no matter what obstacles or difficulties I face, the Lord will be there to guide me through them. My mom was an example of that.
She lived through the Depression on a farm, had her first child born breech, faced uncertainty when her husband’s job transferred him to another state, had a grandson die as an infant, lost her husband after fifty years of marriage then a younger brother passed away a year later, and went through a mastectomy at 84 years old like a trooper. Seriously, what elderly woman leaves the hospital the day after losing a body part and goes out for lunch? That is a small sample of what life threw at her during 88 years. She was the rock of our family, because the Lord was her rock Who helped her along the way and allowed her to finish well.