How Do I Love Thee?

Recently, I discovered a precious piece of paper in a smelly box of yellowing papers, stored in Aunt Mary’s garage at the Findlay Family Farm. So, our “Spirituality” theme will take a different turn today. A very practical turn.  Practical, yet touching and spiritual.

This recent discovery is appropriate for me to share with you on Mother’s Day or on any day that you’d like to have an uplifting thought or two or more….

It is a draft of a love/gratitude letter that my mother wrote to my father in 1990, for their fortieth wedding anniversary which was on September 2.  At the end, she adds in pencil, “finished in Sept. 1990”, which indicates to me that she had been working on this for awhile, growing her special, love list.

Taking a prompt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous 43rd sonnet, “How Do I Love Thee,”  Mom composes thirty points. Not poetically crafted. Some thoughts are so amazingly simple. They are straight forward. Some seem self-oriented, but her point is Dad’s selflessness towards her, and she is revealing her awareness. She is grateful.

Mom and Dad dressed for Old Fashioned Days at their church in 1987. Mom sewed this costume in the early 1960s. At 70 (can you believe she’s 70 here?),  Mom still fit into it! The little munchkin! Notice that she doesn’t want to wear the bonnet which would cover her carefully styled, naturally dark hair. (After all, she was a beautician for 33 years.)

I don’t know if I should share all thirty observations. They are short and crisp. Hmm. I’ll try. Be patient with some of the early ones, and note the growing momentum.

Here we go, and I’l try to abide by her use of or lack of punctuation. (Sorry. Couldn’t totally do that. For consistency, I avoided punctuation at the end of each item, since she seldom used it. I added a few comments in italics on some. Couldn’t help myself.)

How do I love you, let me count the ways

  1. For letting me be Queen of our home
  2. For providing well for us
  3. For giving me your pay checks   [He totally trusted and admired her business mind.]
  4. For giving me the change from your pockets  [Yes, that sounds a bit over the top. Hang in there!]
  5. For being glad when I buy something for me  [Oh, these depression babies were frugal!]
  6. For never complaining about money I’ve spent
  7. For asking me “Do you need anything from the store” [Dad loved to grocery shop.]
  8. For being glad for me to have a day out
  9. For having been proud of my profession
  10. For always respecting my patrons
  11. For encouraging me in my projects and crafts [She was an excellent seamstress.]
  12. For always cleaning up after yourself
  13. For the Honor you give to God
  14. For the service you give Him
  15. For being a good father
  16. For being a good grandfather
  17. For saying “thank you” when I cut your hair
  18. For saying “thank you” for a good meal
  19. For always being satisfied with our food
  20. For being sure the food is passed near to my plate
  21. For waiting until I’m ready to eat my dessert
  22. For being easy to live with
  23. For the way you honor our girls
  24. For the evenings you tend the wood fire in basement
  25. For drying the dishes when you are free
  26. For bringing onions and carrots in [from the garden] partly cleaned and washed
  27. For your love of right and good things
  28. For always being willing to lend a hand
  29. For being congenial and pleasant most of the time
  30. For never being lazy.

Date night treats.

Well, I was a bit embarrassed to include number 4, about Dad giving Mom the change from his pockets, but I decided I should let it all hang out there. (Mom did not ask this of Dad; he seemed to want to do this, which I don’t think he did all the time.) I think the list honors my parents, idiosyncrasies and all. It is all a part of their charm. 

Mom would not want this list published and Dad would. Mom was more private. Dad was a pastor and a storyteller. He loved to tell his life stories, knowing they often inspired others. He’d have known that God could encourage many through Mom’s love list.

How? You tell me how this encourages you or maybe inspires you, if you would please respond. I’ll tell you the encouragement I receive.

I appreciate the intimate, little things: passing dishes to Mom at the dinner table, so she’s not overlooked; waiting to eat his dessert until Mom is ready to eat hers; cleaning the onions and carrots that he brought in from the garden before expecting her to do something with them….

Courtesy is active love.  Love that does not work is not love. Their love was genuine.

Gratitude expressed is cheerful love.

Observation of the little things is bonding love.

Kindness is the fruit-of-the-Spirit love.

Kindness wears many outfits.

Honor given cultivates more honor — given and returned.

Cast your gratitude on the waters, and it most likely will return to you in treasure-laden ships.

As my husband says, “The little things Dad did and Mom noticed show that Dad did not take Mom for granted and that she did not take him for granted. They were a team.” Though Dad has been in heaven for 15 years and Mom for over 10, they continue to inspire Paul and me to be more like them as they followed Christ — interpreted, oh yes, through our own idiosyncrasies.

Is there a spiritual component to this? Of course. It is more than a component. It is the motivator and the enabler. God’s Spirit in their spirits worked through them, transforming them into two, dear Christ-followers.  I am here because of their love. I am blessed by their love. Hopefully, I am passing on the treasures of their love and their spirituality. Gratefully so.


Categories: Being Like Jesus, Parenting, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “How Do I Love Thee?

  1. Martin Zuidervaart

    Karen, the combination of your and your mother’s words remind us, your readers, that all of daily life in every square inch of God’s creation can beautifully integrate both the material and spiritual realities; in other words “religion” is not private nor a compartment.

  2. Louis Mann

    Thanks for sharing this intimate communication from your mother to your father. What a reminder of our need to mutually respect each other and to communicate that respect directly to one another. Everyone needs to be encourage to be kind, loving, and courteous. Love is not silent, but expressive and demonstrated.

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