Dear Pauline,

I remember when I first met you. It was a warm spring day back in college. You were my best friend’s mom. You took us to dinner and insisted on paying. You sat across the table with wise, open eyes. You listened. You gave a few helpful hints. But you prayed more than you spoke. 

I came to know that every conversation with you would be like that, would leave me longing to know Jesus more. Like you knew Him.

You knew Him, and you drew us to Him. You saw the lost and the lonely, and you didn’t pull back—you reached out. You saw the part of my heart that was like a lost little puppy and instead of running away from that need, you rushed toward it. 

Then when your husband was diagnosed with a devastating illness, we grieved for you both, prayed for you–and I assumed you’d be too busy to talk. I was just a newlywed with problems that were small compared to yours . . . who could expect you to find the time?

But you did find the time. You found the time to ask, “How can I pray for you?” when, really, you were the one who deserved that question. You found the time to say, “Thank you for visiting,” when we were the ones who were honored you opened your door. You found the time to end every email with the words, “Love, Pauline” and those two words made us stronger, braver.

Best of all, you found time to be thankful.

When you asked for prayers for your husband’s health, you wrote: We are thankful that he has had a period of relative stability for over a year now.

When you wrote to tell us you had been to the hospital to deal with your own health issues, you made sure we knew: I am thankful for people who helped me with rides.

When you visited your daughter and her family, not only were you over-the-moon thankful to see your grandchildren, but you also wrote: I am thankful [my husband] has good care, and that it is possible for me to leave him without being concerned for his welfare.

When the deer and the birds came to your backyard garden, you were thankful to see the hand of God in these friendly visitors. When getting the house handicap-ready didn’t go as smoothly as planned, you were thankful the workers were diligent and respectful. When your husband was finally able to swallow again, you were thankful. When you saw snow falling outside your window, you were thankful.

Like a practiced drummer who keeps his beat, you were thankful. You would laugh at that, at the idea that I can imagine you pounding on a drum. But you know what, my friend? Your thankfulness kept the beat for everyone around you. It’s not that you just went on humming, clueless to danger. You were fully aware and fully trusting at the same time.

You obeyed as Jesus obeyed. Before He fed the five thousand, Jesus thanked His Father for what He’d been given, too. “Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated . . .” (John 6:11).

Thanking God for your loaves and your fishes was the daily rhythm of your life. But it wasn’t easy.

Choosing thankfulness in a place where so many of us would choose to complain was an act of courage. Light that shines in the darkness is the bravest light of all. 

Your courage shone on the faces of all the loved ones gathered at your funeral just this July. We weren’t ready to let you go, but you were ready to go to Jesus and He was ready to bring you home. Just three days after your diagnosis, you were gone. It was no surprise to those who knew you best that you didn’t dawdle on your way to Jesus–you ran. 

Thank you for writing down everything. I can still learn from you by re-reading emails like this one:

“I love November and think of it as Thanksgiving month. I prayed for many years and asked that I would learn to be more thankful. I have a long ways to go but I am so glad it is no longer an exercise which I try to practice but more a habit and an awareness of all we have been given.”

And I wonder . . . maybe it wasn’t thankfulness that came so naturally to you. Maybe it was trust because you knew Him so well—like a little lamb who knows her Shepherd’s voice.

If you can trust Him enough to be thankful every day, we can, too.

When the kids are sick, I’ll practice: I’m thankful I get to be here, taking care of them.

When my husband’s work hours get cut, I’ll practice: I’m thankful he has a job.

When my 7-year-old and I weep together because we were counting on visiting Auntie Pauline, I’ll practice: I’m thankful for the time we did have with you. We’ll step out in our back garden and visit the flower border, the one re-named for you.

You were always planting something.

In your honor, we’ll plant seeds of thankfulness, too.

Love,
Laura

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Laura Costea

Laura is blessed to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and three young children.  She is a nurse, writer, and strong-coffee-maker.