Friends, some of you prayed faithfully for Hope Fitzgibbon, a friend who died on Saturday the 13th of April. I went to the visitation on Tuesday evening and waited an hour and a half in a long line of people who wanted to pay their respects to her family. The person I saw lying in the coffin was not Hope, but a shell that once contained her spirit. I was reminded of the words of the angel at Jesus' tomb, "He is not here, he is risen.
Joy, her daughter, wrote this tribute and posted it on the Care Pages where daily updates were posted during Hope's illness. For those that didn't know Hope, it is a chance to meet her. Be blessed.
MY BEAUTIFUL MOM
By Joy Fitzgibbon
My Mom was "the kindest and the best of women," to paraphrase Jane Austen. She was extraordinarily gifted: everything that she touched became beautiful. She had a gentleness that was evident to all, she loved extravagantly and she lived vibrantly. She was, above all, a woman of God who placed Jesus at the centre of her life, experienced the fullness of His Spirit flowing through her and shared a depth, intimacy and confidence in her walk with Jesus that was without rival. It was a privilege of inestimable proportions to be raised and loved by her. I cannot begin to find the words to tell you how much I respect and love her.
I love the way Mom saw this world: She had an irrepressible and enlightened eye for the beauty all around us. She created beautiful things and moments. She was brilliantly creative-one of the most gifted people I know. She brought order and beauty to whatever she laid her hands upon-whether a display at the store, a cake or dinner, or an arrangement of flowers. She loved to learn and would ask questions and take courses and do what was necessary to learn a new craft or skill - whether it be sewing, stained glass, home décor and design, merchandising, floral design, cake decorating, cooking. You name it, my Mom could do it. She was fearless and relaxed in the face of such challenges. She was in her element and she just shone whenever she did anything creative.
She was able to look at broken things and see the potential beautyhidden beneath them just ready and waiting to be nurtured and created.These were beautiful reminders of how the Lord nurtures us as, despite our weaknesses and sin, and how He carefully and painstakingly re-creates us in His image.
She taught me to appreciate beautiful things and to not be afraid to learn - even through mistakes. She was a classy woman who also taught me to value beauty as it is a reflection of the hand of God, our brilliant Creator. She showed me the importance of taking care in how we do things. When we set a lovely table with candlelight, special linens and china and make a yummy dinner, for example, we show love and care to our families, friends and ourselves. We make the simple act of eating together a celebration. She showed me how to create a warm home and sparked in me both the love creating beautiful things and the confidence to do so. She created a home that is a refuge from the cacophony of life, where we are safe, warm, nurtured and strengthened for the journey. Her desire to create a supportive nurturing home for Dad and I leaves me with a wonderful legacy - a safe place for us all and a deeper understanding of the gift of hospitality as a way of showing God's love to each other and to friends and strangers alike. Through her beauty, my Mom brought graciousness and dignity to our lives.
Her creativity was clearly evident also in how she lived her days. I don't think I have met anyone who loves to seize unexpected opportunities like my Mom did. She saw the potential in situations and people and ran with it without undue concern about her previous plans. As a creative free spirit Mom would not be penned in. Dad and I would often chuckle. We'd be headed in one direction and suddenly Mom had us heading in a totally different direction because there was a great waterfall over there, or a wonderful store that had unusual things, or because an idea just popped into her head that she had to follow up on. She saw that unusual rose at the back of a garden, or that russet red robin hopping along the ground; both of which I would have missed while sailing on by in my needless hurry. Her intuition was impeccable in a way that 99% of the time paid off handsomely.
There was a structure and a brilliance to her mind. She seized the moment, lived life in the fullest and took advantage of opportunities that many of us might easily miss. She taught me to stop, listen and see the beauty God has given to us to nurture and strengthen us on the journey. She taught me to listen to God's creation for signs of His love. She taught me how to be more flexible and ultimately obedient to the Lord as I embrace the often surprising opportunities that He puts in our paths. I learned from her to live in the moment and celebrate life.
The lives the Lord touched through Mom also became beautiful. She loved extravagantly--just like Jesus--and sought to be an authentic reflection of Him. Mom always thought of everyone else other than herself. She gave so generously to Dad and I and many others. She was always bringing home things that she thought we might like. I've lost track of the number of times that she presented me with a new piece of jewellry, a book, some sweet treat or favorite breakfast or brought home Tim Horton's just because she knew I was writing and needed some incentive. Mom loved giving to people. She was like a kid in a candy shop. She gave without reserve, with deep love. There wasn't a stingy bone in my Mom's body.
She also gave of herself through her open and gentle spirit. Her openness and warmth made her a safe place for people--particularly the many of us who are wounded, suffering or lonely. Mom took time for us all exploring the details of people's lives with a deep compassion.
I've lost track of the number of times through the years that she sawsomeone in need and quietly and generously ministered to them. She didn't announce it, she just gently, unobtrusively and humbly went about it. She was a wonderful example of Christ's love and compassion and a beautiful model for me of how to live as a reflection of Him.
Mom was a loyal and a loving wife. What a blessing to have a Mom who demonstrated such love and praise for her husband and my Dad. I remember watching her at the grocery store several years ago. Dad decided to surprise her, coming early to help her with the grocery shopping. As he was walking towards her, she just beamed with such a glow of love for him. She said, that even now, 42 years later, she was still breathless by him and thought he was so wonderful and handsome. Her sparkle of love for him after all these years and complete respect of him--his background, his many strengths, his challenges and his preference--is all a wonderful example of a Godly wife.
She cultivated moments to celebrate, laugh and live life lightly. My Mom had a spectacular sense of humour. She was mischievous and sharp witted. She made me laugh so often and pulled me out of my natural tendencies towards introspection. I love the way she laughed and brought joy to those around her. She embraced opportunities to create moments of sacred reflection too--thinking deeply and widely about the world and about God's hand in it. She showed us how to live the breadth and depth of the passion God has created within us.
I could share freely my deepest feelings with my Mom. She could be trusted with my heart and to not crush my spirit.
It was such a privilege and a delight to spend time with her, laugh with her and learn from her.Mom showed me that to honor our closest relationships is one of the greatest joys and responsibilities God has entrusted to us.
My Mom was a gentle woman but a strong one. She was one of the strongest, intelligent, resilient and most independent people I know. She thought with her own mind and had her own opinions even if she didn't always express them because she was concerned about others' preferences. She encouraged me to be a woman who is not a victim, but a capable, Godly woman who seeks after Christ's heart and will go, in His power, wherever He sends her without hesitation. She trusted in the Lord even in the darkness and even when she struggled with the most difficult question of life: Why do you allow me to suffer, Lord? I am so grateful for her for asking that question and for ultimately letting the answer rest in Christ's hands, and placing herself there too. She showed me what it is to rest in Him and yield to Him as He works His perfect purposes in our lives, for His glory and for our best.
She showed me how to be a woman of God deeply committed to and extravagantly loved by Jesus. Who is strong and yet a lady: powerful because she is ruled by the Holy Spirit, confident in her femininity and leading passionately with her heart and hands as well as her mind. A sacred woman who serves others, in the name of Jesus, with deep character and passion. She loved Him with all her heart, soul and mind. She spoke with courage, what Christ laid on her heart. She often gave me counsel that was so perceptive and so firmly rooted in the love and truth of Christ that I knew it was straight from Him. She showed me what it means to be a messenger for Christ and to be His vessel in this world.
What a special privilege it is to be raised by a Mom who has experienced the working of the Holy Spirit in her life in such full and powerful ways. She taught me, and demonstrated such an openness to His working and showed great wisdom and understanding in seeking Him. It is a rare gift to live in the presence of such mature, wise and humble Mom and Dad who are fully open to receive what the Lord has for them. She taught me so much as she consistently allowed the Holy Spirit to move in whatever way He wishes and as she desired to act in accordance with His voice. She and Dad created an environment in which I naturally absorbed and learned the rewards of such openness in my relationship with Him.
She was an incomparable, startlingly beautiful, lovely and strong woman. What shines above all, however, is that her heart belonged to Jesus, whatever came. That He is our refuge through the trials and triumphs of life. She showed in the past few years that nothing takes away her submission to His ownership as He walked her through such suffering. Somehow, I had this sense that she was falling even more deeply in love with Him. What a blessing and privilege it was to be raised by such a Godly Mom.
She taught me how to live and she taught me how to die. The night Mom was diagnosed, she sat down with us and said her thank you's and good byes. She apologized to Dad and I for what this would mean for us. Then she said, I'm going to fight. And fight, courageously, she did. Unless you were there, every day, for the past six months, it is hard for you to imagine the suffering that my Mom went through. Leukemia patients suffer so much and my Mom bore it valiantly. She was a woman of great courage. When it was clear that the Lord was calling her home, she had no fear, simply a peace and a communion with the Lord. She was a woman of great trust in her Beloved.
Mom was a precious gift to Dad and I who brought such joy and sweetness to our lives. We were abundantly blessed by her love.
I adored my precious Mom and I am heartbroken at her passing. I miss her desperately and the pain is acute. There are so many things that remind me of her, so many "Mom moments" where I can hear her or see her as if she is here. But she is not. I said to Dad the other night, crying, "How will we ever live without her?"
And yet, I know that the Lord is present with us, through His spirit, and that Mom is present face to face with Him. I could never wish her continued suffering. It was intolerable. I can almost see her now, dancing, completely free-physically, emotionally and spiritually, with a radiant and exuberant smile on her face, laughing in the light and love of Jesus. She would not come back now even if she had a choice.
I also know that the Lord will walk us through these days. My beautiful Mom has taught me to trust Him without hesitation. Even if I experience fears, to still look to the One who calms them all. And so I do that tonight, grateful for my beautiful Mom who taught me all about Him and helped me fall in love with Jesus as my Beloved and my Everything.