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KOEDYKER: Some thoughts about my mother-in-law and the new year

• Jan 9, 2019 at 3:00 PM

Yes, we are done with Christmas now for another 11 months. It’s time to face the cold months of January and a February, and a new year — 2019!

A friend of mine said that her son called her “the Grinch” when she was taking down the Christmas tree. I laughed when I read that, but it is true that we have to move on. But how do we move on?

It’s always interesting to me to see how people “move on” and respond to starting a new year. I was overwhelmed with how many people showed up at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA the day after New Year’s Day. The pool was so crowded that I had to share a lane with two other people. I only swiped one of the swimmers once with my arm during my laps.

Getting in shape is a good thing and working out at the Y can’t hurt. But keep it up, people! Don’t quit after a few days. And stick to that diet!

My mother-in-law passed away this past week and I think she was a great example to our family and those who knew her. She was always pleasant and kind — a very sweet lady. She struggled with dementia during the last years of her life, but she kept her sense of humor all the way until the day before she died.

Another thing that she kept was her faith in God. That never left her. And one of the greatest things about her faith was the fact that she truly loved people. She was always warm and welcoming.

The thing that really stands out to me was her smile. So many people have told me this, and I have seen it myself. When I would enter her room, immediately her face would brighten, her smile would beam, and she would open her arms, bidding me to come to her and get a hug and a kiss.

In this world where there seems to be so much hatred and people call each other by the foulest of names, I know that Margaret would never do that. She loved deeply and warmly. She accepted everyone.

Where do you think she learned that? I believe she learned it from her Savior and friend, Jesus. When I think of Margaret with that warm welcome and arms wide open, I think of Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Would that we could all live like that!

And Jesus even took it a step further. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) The world would certainly be a different place if we’d all do that!

With all the negative talk and hate speech all around us, I think we need a new year with a new attitude. But it is not something you can just think your way into, or wish about. It is something that comes from deep inside, which God only can do for us as we open ourselves to him. “We love because (God) first loved us,” says John in his first letter (4:19)

So, it is possible, and Lord knows, we need a different kind of year.

As I was thinking about all of this, I happened to read the following lines: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” What a challenge that is!

I was fortunate to have a living example of that in my mother-in-law until just a few days ago. Now, I guess I will have to take up that mantel. I hope I can do it. I know I won’t do it perfectly. And I hope you will forgive me when I don’t. But it surely is a worthy goal to have as we enter the new year.

I hope that you might join me in striving to meet that challenge. May God help us all!

— By the Rev. John Koedyker, Tribune community columnist

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