January 29, 2017
(Christmas at Ann Jacob's house in the days when everyone was there!)
Today my grandma passed, but so too did six children's mother, 14 other children's grandma, and 15 children's G-G. But this post isn't about numbers - its about life and how we can treasure, honor, and share the love of those who helped us become who we are. Today, my grandma passed - not away - but from this life to the next and to the better. Ann Marie Simelbauer Jacobs was a beacon of kindness, generosity, love, and unfailing faith in the real person of Jesus Christ.
This blog is personal and real, friends - but that's what I stand for all around, and I hope that the deeper meanings of this post connect to you too, so read on for more.
Christmas 1992 Ann Jacobs' house: My cousin and my two brothers along with Ann in the rocking chair in the back
Martha and Mary
In Luke 10: 38-42 the scripture tells us that "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me." "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."
Ann was not Martha and she was not Mary. Each day of her life - she was both. She opened her home and served others regularly - caring for them out of a heart of service and love. She cooked and baked and always filled the bellies of those who visited. She once, it seems as if something from a legend but is true, picked up a hitch-hiker (in the days when it was safe for people to do this) and took him back to her house, gave him a sandwich, and then took him on his way. Her young daughters remember and begin to salivate at the lunches she used to pack that would be the envy of their co-workers. A quick visit was sure to bring you an unexpected meal including dessert. She continued to cook and serve as it got more difficult for her to get around these last years, having shelves installed into a bedroom closet so she could reach items that were out of reach in her kitchen cabinets. Serve? Yes - she served in every way like Martha. But, she listened and shared her heart too. Oh! She was like Mary - knowing that few things are needed - and indeed only one - and gave of her heart without bitterness. She filled her house with love and all of the visitors' hearts too -even when life handed her struggles that might have been too much to bear for others - she kept on and didn't grow bitter -but increased the love for those around her that much more.
Friends, can you join me in honoring my grandma by choosing not only what is better but also by serving out of an outpouring of love? Take care of others' bodies and hearts.
Ann & Ann before a dance recital
Fear and Trembling:
I was troubled by something that Ann struggled with on the day before she died. Six months ago, she struggled to breathe in her home and saw the lovely light of Heaven. She also saw her "Pop" who seems to have appeared to each of her siblings before their death. She kept saying, "Pop!" My aunt thought she wanted a soda and went to get one, but then her daughters realized she wasn't talking about a beverage, but her father! She told them about this vision later. Pop's back was to her. She kept saying to her daughters that day that she didn't understand why Pop wouldn't turn around. Someone suggested that it was because God wasn't ready to take her home yet. But that day changed Ann. Whatever fears she might have held onto about death were wiped away. That light of heaven was the most comforting feeling she had ever sensed. She felt ready when the time would come and hoped for that light to welcome her again.
On the day before she died, though, her heart was filled with fear and trembling. She recalled a conversation with another elderly lady from the bus she used to ride to Altoona. That woman, now deceased, heard of Ann's plans and desire to be cremated. She told Ann she would surely go to hell, because God does not approve of cremation. She struggled, telling her daughter, "What if He won't come? What if I am not going to heaven because I want to be cremated?" as she pondered why she hadn't seen that lovely light yet as she knew her body was failing fast. She prayed repeatedly for it.
Although she was medicated for pain and sleepy when she passed, I believe God was welcoming his faithful servant and beautiful daughter into His presence as her earthly body rested. We didn't get to hear or see it this time, but I feel confident. I think Ann's thoughts near the end were pretty normal. We all, the Bible says, must work out our salvation in "fear and trembling." What, though, does it mean to work out our salvation in fear and trembling? The original Greek words Paul used for "work out" mean "to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition." Paul describes himself as pressing on, like straining and working, towards the goal of Christlikeness Philippians 3:13-14. We tremble when we are weak - and this reminds us of our dependence on our Lord. Ann showed us how to live in fear and trembling of our Lord until her dying day.
Friends, can you join me in honoring Ann by never giving those around us reason to dread out of our own judgement, like that woman on the bus? Let's be beacons of hope and point to God's salvation and mercy. Let's also live our own lives in fear and trembling as Ann did hers.
Ann and her youngest grandchild: Anthony at her birthday party circa 2004.
Pain is Beauty:
There is pain in this life, and there is beauty in this life. There is even beauty through the journey of pain. Ann's life was never easy - not in growing up, not in her days of young motherhood, or in her days as a widow, but she saw what in those painful moments could bring about a beautiful life. She said to me, in the hospital one week before she died, that although those parts of her life were so hard, she had forgiven. She had let go of the pain and she hoped that her children could too. She embraced the beauty that the pain had given to her. She said how glad she was to mother and raise six lovely children: Donna, Gerald, Wayne, Norman, Karen, and Darlene and how her life was blessed because of them.
I want us to honor Ann by forgiving and releasing our bitterness and giving thanks for the blessings that come through pain.
Brady and I with Ann in 2007 at our wedding. Photo Credit: Annie-hannah Mancini
Birth and Death:
As I was with her this last week, watching her breathing change and feeling her hands go cold, witnessing pains come and go in succession - getting stronger each hour, I couldn't help but see a parallel with the pain of labor before birth. A woman's body goes through successive contractions of pain before bringing forth new life. Did you know that both the dying and birthing process involve terms like "transitioning?" Ann's body went through the same today, and these last few days, but the new life wasn't a new baby on this earth (What a surprise that would be!) but it was God's labor of love bringing her beautiful spirit home to Heaven to live in fullness and glory in a heavenly new body that won't die.
Friends, can you join me in honoring Ann's life by allowing God to birth wholeness into us?
My youngest with GG Ann last year
My oldest son with his GG in 2014 - showing her what he loves about space!
Each life that Ann touched holds memories of her dearly. Ann told stories - even more so in recent years. Somehow, age gives clarity to moments of our youth. She frequently told a story of how, as a child, living in the German section of Altoona (which was near the Italian section) she would walk to an Italian woman's house who had a few little tables set up on her back porch. You could pay 50 cents for a big plate of spaghetti, a meatball, and sauce - all homemade of course. She also added that German mothers never liked that old woman because she refused to share the family recipe - while they were pouring something akin to tomato sauce over noodles and not quite thrilling their children. She told me this story so many times - about how good it tasted - how that woman's daughter married a young man with the last name DelGrosso - and that the rest is sauce history. I think it is ironic that now I live in walking distance from the factory that makes spaghetti sauce inspired by that same woman.
Please share your memories and continue to stay in touch with those whose roots began near yours. If you knew Ann, continue to tell her stories as well as yours as we continue building branches on this family tree and producing good fruit for Heaven.