Every year about this time when Nette and I celebrate our anniversary I am reminded of a very important lesson I learned 26 years ago. It came from a very unlikely source: Esther Lydia Maske. The reason I say unlikely is because Lynette’s maternal grandmother suffered and eventually died from Alzheimer’s disease.
She had a quick and beautiful smile. In fact she may have been the most beautiful older woman I have ever known. And like the Esther of the Bible, her beauty was not just on the outside. She was a kind person, a gentle person, and a godly person. To hear the family tell stories of her, she grew up attending church in Nebraska and very involved in all aspects of church life. She taught Sunday School for decades. She went to all the potlucks. She shared her faith. She worked in Vacation Bible School. She read her bible every day. She sang in the choir.
Living for Jesus and his Church was a part of the ethos of her life.
But the Alzheimer’s had done its ravishing work on her mind by the time I came into her world. Grandma Maske never called my name. When Lynette and I first began dating, she could mutter a few words but usually they didn’t make much sense. You had to keep an eye on her or she might wonder off and get lost.
Lynette’s parents lived in Slidell, Louisiana and so we traveled there to get married. The family was all there—the Henry’s and the Maske’s. It was a day or so before the wedding and I was sitting in a living room chair reading a book when I noticed Grandma Maske in the kitchen. We had just eaten breakfast and the kitchen was clean, but she had wandered in there and was standing in the middle of the room rubbing her hands together in small circular motions as if she were rubbing in imaginary lotion.
I was watching her, admiring her beauty and feeling a bit sad that she seemed to not know where she was and what to do with herself. Then she moved to the sink and picked up a damp dishrag that had been draped over the faucet, ran some water over the rag, rung it out then moved to the far end of the countertop and began to wipe down the already clean surface. Her dainty age-marked hands moving in small circular motions, picking up canisters along the way and wiping down behind them and then wiping them down as well. She was very thorough and methodical—she was a Methodist after all.
As she slowly progressed down the counter with her unnecessary cleaning, I began to have an impassioned, silent and one-sided discussion with God. I felt bitterness and anger rising in my soul like bile in my throat. It burned with a feeling of injustice and how capricious God must be to allow such a beautiful person who had spent her entire life serving him and living for him to end up with a vacant mind doing mindless and menial work in a kitchen that no longer needed her.
“God, if this is how you treat one of your best saints, how will you treat me?” I was furious with God.
Grandma Maske stopped her tireless wiping of the counters for she had made her way to the kitchen sink. She looked up and out of the window, resting her hands on the porcelain edge—I imagined she had done that countless times on the farm in Nebraska watching her husband working in the fields. And just as the toxic emotions in my soul were about to burn through and perhaps do some lasting damage to the lining of my spirit, she began to sing a song.
“God is so good. God is so good. God is so good. He is so good to me.”
Then she blinked, smiled and muttered something I couldn’t make out, took her gaze off of the fields of Nebraska and back to the counter top in Louisiana and started her circular motion to finish the job of cleaning a clean counter.
I was staggered by the implications. In that moment God told me that my life was going to be needlessly painful and full of disappointments if I didn’t let go of bitterness and simply trust in the simple truth: God is good.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalms 34:8 ESV
I have and He is.