Obituary for Naomi Yoder
I was going through papers on my desk today, and found a card from Aunt Naomi. It was written in her familiar handwriting, and it had the usual reminders of faith and hope and caring. I thought of her, now, as the people she loves are gathering in and wondered at what she must be feeling. She could get better from this. I guess so, anyhow. But if she doesn’t, it is a wonderful thing for the family to be there, sharing time together while she is still alert and able to talk to them, able to enjoy those people she loves “best of all”.
The week has been so full of remembering. She loved her brothers and sisters intently, and I often said that the boys would go to Aunt Naomi when they needed mothering. She has her papa’s loving heart and their Mama’s efficiency. She learned through the years to trust her Heavenly Father, and though it was born out of some desperately hard times, it is a faith of pure gold, solid quality, tried in the fires of life. I’ve so often wanted to be just like her. And then I would think about what it has cost her and my heart would shrink back. “Do I want it enough???”
The memories are so precious. I remember a particular phone call when my Daddy was first ill. She called to see how he was, and to encourage me. She was a bit pensive, but not downtrodden. Then she said, “You know, Mary Ann, your daddy has always thought that every one else was ‘picked first’ — for whatever activity people were picking sides for – sports, academic exercises, whatever.” She said, “One time he said to me that just once, he would like to be picked first.” She paused, her voice heavy with emotion, then plowed bravely on. “You know, Mary Ann, I just have a feeling that this is one time your daddy might get picked first. I have a feeling that he’s going to be the first one of us siblings to go on to Heaven.” And he was. It’s funny how simple statements can comfort us, but that was something that comforted me over and over again. My Daddy. Home free, safe and sound. Grandpa and Grandma to himself for one split second of eternity.
There was another time when she gave me a life principle to live by. Aunt Mary Lois was so ill. Uncle Daniel was keeping watch, Uncle Monnies had come to Delaware, and the Yoder brothers and sisters that could make it had come to Shady Acres with their spouses for supper. After supper, the family gathered in the living room to sing out of the old Church and Sunday School Hymnals. Uncle Eli and Aunt Ruth’s daughter in law, Karen, had come and was playing the old piano. The songs were of Heaven, of traveling through this world of sorrow, of being faithful and looking forward to Heaven. A call was made to Aunt Mary Lois and a song was sung for her. A call to Uncle Luke and I think one to Uncle Paul and the Aunts and Uncles sang for each of them, some of the voices getting reedy and old, but on key and still beautiful.
Aunt Naomi was quiet that night. I was startled to realize that emotion was thickening her throat and making it hard for her to sing. We sat later, talking. She always made me feel like I was the only one on her radar screen when we were conversing. She looked into my eyes, she often held my hand. Our conversation turned to her beloved son, Steve, and she said something that, not only will I always remember, but it has helped me over the years in countless ways. This is what she said:
“You know, Mary Ann, I am so glad that I can count on God to do what is just and right and fair, If people were to judge Steve, there are probably some of them that will be too hard on him. And if I were to judge him, I might be too lenient, but I can trust God to do what is right, and I can leave it there and rest in that.” She cried that night, something I almost never saw her do, but I appreciated that, too. Always so full of joy, but honest in her grief, too, for brief windows of time.
Another thing that I respected her for her was her love for Uncle Monnie. I know from being the wife of a good man that sometimes the best of men are easy to get impatient with, or to find the flaws. I know that a man as determined as Uncle Monnie couldn’t have been easy. Not all the time. But she made it look easy. Her loyalty, her unfailing smiley lines, her faith in him and her faith in God was an example that was safe to follow, and I can’t tell you how often I thought of her and what she would do if she were in my shoes. And took courage. When they were with a crowd, invariably, I would find them off by themselves somewhere, chatting quietly. Sitting on a couch, or two folding chairs, away from the rest, Uncle Monnie would be talking and she would be listening attentively. I would see the two of them and think about the fact that what they had between them was something that the young and aspiring call “Good Communication” but so often have no idea what it really is.
I hate to think that she might be leaving us. I know she has fought a good fight, I know she wants to be with Jesus and with Uncle Monnie. I know she has a whole passel of loved ones over there that she is longing to see. But I hate to not have her here. I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want her to be confined and restricted and unable to be “Aunt Naomi” as she has enjoyed being all these years. But I still hate to think about us without her. She really does make us all think finer thoughts, love more unconditionally, and live with that hope that we know is so real to her — and it makes it more real to us. What will we do without her?
And so this morning, when I think of how it feels to me, I multiply that in the face of what the family must be feeling, and think of you all, gathering home for what must feel like the last time like this, and my heart aches for you. I know all about the grace that holds you steady. I know about the supernatural strength that sees you through these days, tucking all the memories away for the days when all you have are the memories, and I know about that waiting that puts you into a holding pattern of uncertainty, and I know that God is there — with you, and in you and over you and under you, and that is the greatest comfort of all. May you experience the unity and peace that makes days like these shine with glory and gives your sweet Mama comfort.
Last evening, around 8:30, she slipped away. This morning, again on our family e-group, her oldest son, Dan, posted a comforting and faith filled missive. At the end of that posting, he had this little snippet:
In the final hours of her life yesterday after her ability to recognize those around her had faded, the following two quotes came from her that I share with you.
“Tell the people God is sufficient to meet their needs”
“Tell the people it is worth it. If they have any doubt, tell them it is real.”
I cannot begin to tell you the spring of joy that welled up in my heart! This is Holy Ground. And now she is safely home.
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”