Monday, November 22, 2021

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Scripture
In all these things
we are more than conquerors
through Christ who loved us.
Romans 8:37

A Look at Joy
The care center where my mom lived in St. Paul was in quarantine the week she died. My brothers Robin and Paul, who live nearby, would have a nurse take a cell phone in to her so they could FaceTime. They would explain to Mom about the pandemic, and why they couldn’t come inside, and how they didn’t know when the quarantine would end.

When I called from Chicago the next day, Mom didn’t remember about the virus, or that the cafeteria was closed, or even where she was. “Everything is fine,” she said, sounding weak. “Though I think I’m just about done with this job.” She lived in the fog of dementia, but it often thinned, letting more light through. “I just don’t seem to get much done anymore,” she continued. “You’re 95,” I said, “you don’t have to get much done. Let people do stuff for you for a change.” She laughed at this. Then I asked what they had for dinner. She couldn’t remember. “Oh, nothing fancy,” she finally said. “But it was a great plenty.”

A great plenty. The phrase meant, for her, “there is always enough,” though she often used it when there wasn’t—like at a poorly attended church potluck or fundraiser. “We’ll make do,” she’d always say. Like thousands of other elders who are now isolated from their children and grandchildren during the pandemic, Mom lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and World War II and other times when having “enough” was both gift and goal, a cause for gratitude. We are living through such a time now—a time of fear and loss, in which we can never imagine enough. Enough money or work or face masks or COVID-19 tests, enough compassion to make it through this.

The word compassion literally means “to suffer with,” and it’s the quality I most admired in my mom. She knew it was what enabled the possibility of a great plenty, of there being enough for everyone. That’s the world she lived toward, in small ways, in a small Iowa town, but with great love.

(“A great plenty: My mother’s life taught me compassion and gratitude” by Tom Montgomery Fate from the Christian Century, January 13, 2021.)

Prayer
God of “nothing fancy” for dinner,
Let there be, today, a great plenty.
Where “enough” means gratitude
And in such ordinary thanksgiving,
we might find the something-more we are looking for.
Amen.