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Friday, February 05, 2010

Barbara Henry

A few months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. Recently, we were told that, in spite of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the cancer had spread to the liver and bones. She lost her battle with this disease early this morning.

While contemplating my relationship with this special woman, my thoughts were drawn to another pair of women who shared a special bond, Naomi and Ruth. Their story is in the Book of Ruth in the Bible.

As the story opens, a man, Eliminech, takes his wife, Naomi, and two sons to a foreign country, Moab, to live when a severe famine strikes his homeland, Bethlehem in Judea. As time passes, Eliminech dies, and each of the sons marry women from Moab. After a few more years, both sons die, leaving the three women behind with no male family member to provide for them.

With no means of support, Naomi decides to go back home to Bethlehem to try to find refuge with her husband’s kin. Both daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, decide to go with her rather than be separated from her. Naomi pleads with them to stay and try to find new husbands and start new families. Orpah tearfully agrees to stay, but Ruth will not. Her passionate speech to Naomi as she pledges her love and allegiance is one of the most well known passages in the Bible. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” The passage closes with, “When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

The story continues, they return to Bethlehem, and Ruth remarries—one of her husband’s relatives. She eventually has a son who becomes the grandfather of King David. But, what caught my attention is the “back story.”

Names in Biblical times were chosen carefully and were descriptive. Naomi’s name meant “pleasant; lovely.” Indeed, the story indicates that she was a beautiful woman, but the description must have been much deeper than looks. Physical beauty will attract men, but only a pleasant and lovely personality and countenance can account for the deep relationship between this mother-in-law and her daughters-in-law. Orpah left weeping. The love Ruth felt for Naomi was so deep that she left everything behind to go to a foreign country with the mother of her husband.

Naomi reminds me of my mother-in-law, Barbara. She was a beautiful woman outwardly, but even more so inwardly. She was pleasant and lovely. Happy. Fun-loving. Optimistic. Kind. Selfless. Giving. Warm. Open. Accepting. Loving. Brave.

Barbara’s name meant “different” and she was—different from other mothers-in-law. As Naomi was to Ruth, Barbara was to me. More than a mother-in-law, she was a second mother and friend. And I will miss her...

February 5, 2010


Miss Rhea said...

I am SO sorry Karen. I am so drawn to your post and tribute to her. You see, when my Husband and I were dating, we did a Bible study of the Book of Ruth together, and fell in love with each other, while reading that same story written thousands of years ago. We had our Marriage Vows include the vow from Ruth to Naomi. My MIL is also my Naomi, a sweet Christian woman whom I love dearly. My heart truly breaks for you and your family. The Lord has His arms wrapped around her in His lap now, pain free with Her Savior. Sending you BIG hugs today.

gail said...

Karen, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your Mother in law. I will keep your family in my prayers. (())gail

Joyce said...

Dear Karen,
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Just the few times that I heard you speak of your dear Mother in-law, I knew she was very special to you.
I'm praying that your family will find peace and comfort in the memories that you share.

Hugs, Joyce (MB)

Kether said...

My heart is with you.
This was a beautiful tribute and touched my heart.
I lost my own mother in law to a battle with cancer just four years into my marriage two years ago. I loved her dearly and miss her every day.
Then, last week, I lost my beloved Nana to pancreatic cancer. These losses are huge, but these women have also left a mark on who we are.
I am grieving with you. May God bless you and bring you peace.

Susie said...

Dearest Karen, What a lovely tribute to your dear Mother in Law. May she rest in eternal peace. Sendng you hugs and prayers for comfort at this difficult time.
The Polka Dot Rose

Susan - Etchings of the Heart said...

Karen my thoughts and prayers go out to your husband, you, your family and friends. I work in an environment surround by the strength and courage of women with Cancer and am always amazed at their will and strong spirit. As a Christian I know your MIL is safely in the arms of our Savior and like Rhea said is now free of pain. Her spirit and love will carry on in your hearts forever! What a blessing it has been to have such a wonderful women here on earth and in your lives. Sending Love, Prayers, Friendship and Hugs your way.