Today is the Portuguese Festa in Tipton.
I anticipate this year's festivities to be emotional for all of us.
My hubby's family has played a major role in this celebration for many, many years and this year, my mother in law will be missing and missed for the first time in more than 6 decades.
At her funeral last week, Hubby's cousin Michael, spoke.
I have asked him it I could share his words here and he graciously agreed.
His words could not be more fitting for the Truism of today as we gather in my husband's small hometown celebrating a heritage that my mother in law held so dear.
My friend, Tia Ivinha
I am both honored and humbled to stand here today, to say a few words about Tia Ivinha.
She was more than a aunt to me, she was, as she put it, "my special friend".
In preparing for today, I went through many drafts of what I wanted to say about Tia Ivinha, it is the most difficult thing I have had to put on paper.
I mean what do I focus on?
She was the most generous person any of us knew.
I couldn't count the many bedsides that she has sat by to pray for the ill or dying?
I could talk about the many loaves of sweet bread she baked and gave away to friends, family and strangers.
Or I could talk about the meals she prepared for visitors to her home- it didn't even matter if you had just ate, she would see to it that you were going to eat again.
How she treated friends of Corey who had stayed there, like they were her own grandchildren.
I could talk about the handful of quarters she gave out to children and adults alike.
Would it surprise you if I told you, that she would drive to the laundry mat in Tipton to fill up the machines of complete strangers, just to help out.
She went out of her way to make sure that there were no strangers in her life.
While those stories are great, they miss the big picture, you see, Tia Ivinha was most generous with her love, as displayed by her acts of kindness.
Family, friends and people she met for the first time- she treated everyone with the same respect and unconditional love.
Her faith guided her in this love.
The Holy Gospel According To John; chapter 3, verse 16 tells us "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life". Later on in the Gospel of John, during the last supper, Jesus issued his final commandment to his disciples, he said " Love one another as I have loved you".
It was this commandment and love that guided Tia Ivinha in her walk of faith.
Only a faithful, humble, devoted servant of our Lord Jesus Christ could love everyone so unconditionally.
I always admired that about my friend.
By God's Grace she was placed in our life to give us a living example of his love.
Now, if she was standing here beside me today, she would probably be getting upset with me for making such a big deal about this because she was so humble.
She would wonder what was so special about treating people the way she did, how else would she treat them?
In a recent Facebook post by her son-in-law Mike, he captured her perfectly, for he wrote: "On a given day she could care for three toddlers, make 10 loaves of sweet bread, iron 25 shirts, pull a few weeds in the garden, sweep her driveway and when you asked her what she did today, her response would be
"To tell you the truth, I had nothing to do all day".
If she was here, She would also tell us she could have been more generous.
As we move on from today, I would challenge each of us here today, to think about Tia Ivinha and her life
- to replace sadness with action -
to love more generously and honor our friend Tia Ivinha's legacy by following her example.
As was her philosophy, " The more you give away, the more you get/feel". (translated from Portuguese).
Tia Ivinha and I have been close my whole life, we had a special relationship.
We were both close to my grandfather/her brother.
On the night he passed away, when grief overtook me, she found the strength to lift a 19 year old boy up off the ground and comfort me, despite her own grief.
I will miss my special friend.
For today, we both mourn her passing from this world and rejoice in the comfort that she is in the Kingdom of Heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
He shared with me that he had been pondering the "why" of those words recently when it became clear to him that "we are given relatives by birth, but friends are a choice- a choice to make them special."
How true that is.