On Monday morning, March 21, 2022, my Mom, Rachel Archer, age 88, went Home. She reached her life-long goal. She ran a very, very fine race, indeed.
In the week that followed, there was much to do – arrangements to make, people to notify. My Dad asked me to give a tribute at the service. I like to write, but I also like to have plenty of time to do it. It was a difficult week and I found little time to grieve, let alone write something worthy of my incredibly special Mom.
And so, finally, I just told God I would have to trust Him to help me to honor her and to honor Him. Friday morning came and I had a couple of hours alone at my house. I sat on my couch and thought about my Mom. And the words came easily. Because all I had to do was start talking to Mom … and I knew what to say.
So these are the notes that I wrote and used to speak at her service on Monday, March 28th, at Mount Vernon First Church of the Nazarene, the place where Dad pastored for 18 years and their home church for almost 53 years. I want to keep these thoughts in a place where I can find it later … for the times I need reminders of who I want to be like – like my Mom.
First, on behalf of my family, we want to thank all of you … There cannot be better people than those in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. For those of you who have visited especially these past few years, brought meals, called, prayed, sent cards to Mom or Dad, you have a very special place in our hearts. Often, you have done those things as you went through your own difficult times. You have exemplified Jesus to us.
Many years ago, I read a book by John Ortberg called Love Beyond Reason. It was a great book and I let my Mom borrow it. Several years later, I asked her whatever happened to my book. I got it back from her – only to find a torn book jacket, lots of underlining, notes and scripture in the margins. That’s how my Mom did all of her studying about God – hands-on. Ortberg became one of Mom’s favorite authors. The book opens with a story about his sister who had a rag doll named Pandy. Over the years, Pandy became worn, old, and just plain ugly. But Ortberg’s sister loved her so much – Pandy went everywhere with her. Once they were almost all the way home from vacation only to realize that Pandy had been left in the hotel room. The family had to turn around and drive all the way back – They found Pandy in the hotel sheets and rescued this worn-out rag doll just in time to save her from death by hotel washing machine. Ortberg used Pandy to make a point that stayed with me over the years: We are most used to a kind of love that looks for worth in someone or something – that celebrates the beautiful, strong, or expensive. A love that gives back to us. But there’s another kind of love – the kind that CREATES value in what is loved – that looks to give instead of to receive – to love the imperfect – the kind of love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures – God’s kind of love.
And I tell that story because it describes my Mom’s kind of love, too. Mom loved us with the second kind of love – the kind that creates value. Of all the roles she handled so well and loved – daughter, sister, wife, mom, friend, musician, pastor’s wife, elementary school teacher, Missions President, speaker, leader – this is what made Mom so special. She loved beyond reason. My friend, Joanne Hancock wrote about Mom, “She always believed I was better than I was which made me want to be just that.”
Other friends this week have said,
“She did not-so small things with great love. She thought they were small, but to others they were great.”
“Rachel had the gift of making each person in her presence feel like they were loved and treasured by her.”
“I overheard her talking to someone about my husband and me. She expressed so much confidence in who we were and what we were doing in the Kingdom. She made me want to live up to her words.”
My Mom had the rare ability to see the best in us, to love people so she could give instead of receive. And somehow that made us all better. Somehow through her, we could see God’s love for us – the kind that makes very imperfect people into valued treasures.
Mom, thank you for …
Setting a patient lifelong example instead of lecturing me. You gave me lots of space and limitless time to grow.
Expecting nothing from others and yet being so very grateful for whatever people gave you.
Sitting at the kitchen table or in your blue swivel chair or on the plaid sectional – reading your Bible and praying with your marked-up devotional books and your journal. I saw that your walk with God made you who you were and fueled everything you did.
Pinching my arm secretly right out here in this foyer when you were giving someone your full attention and I ran up to interrupt because we’d already been at church for 4 hours that morning. And you had been up long before that getting ready and putting a roast in the oven (a super-power I didn’t inherit). And I knew that putting others first was important.
Your daily example – All the encouraging notes, the delivered meals, the bridal and baby showers, the phone calls, the Bible studies, the care and attention to children, standing by Dad’s side to shake the many hundreds of hands every Sunday after church, the hours playing hymns on the organ or singing in the choir, the collecting of things to take on your next trip to Nicaragua, the thoughtful eye that spotted the new person to welcome them and pull them into the church family — I saw it. You were just being you, but I saw how to love in everyday life.
Your unwavering love and respect for Dad, your loving marriage partnership, your contentment in every situation, your consistent happy attitude. Being the same at home as you were in public.
Adding public speaking to your skills later in life – you told God you would do it if He wanted you to, but He’d have to help you not to be too nervous. And I realized I could do hard things through Him who gives me strength.
All the wonderful hours spent just talking together – while we shopped or took Sunday afternoon rides in the car or did dishes or sat on the couch.
Thank you for calling it an “adventure” whenever we got lost driving around together.
Being a normal, accessible, understanding person – all the games and family trips and girl time. For all the little gifts that showed you had thought of us.
Sharing in all my love, concerns, and prayers for my girls. For praying for them every day. For being the best Mamaw. For believing in me to homeschool them.
For laughing and always seeing the humor in life. For living happy. For not taking everything seriously.
Serving as naturally as if it were breathing.
Silently forgiving me when I didn’t even know I needed it.
Thanks for being my very own daily, life-long, steady example of God’s love, Mom. Out of all the moms in the world, somehow I got you. What an amazing blessing you are to me, Mom, and always will be!
Many of you know that Mom had dementia these past few years. Most of the time, though, right up to the end, she was aware of what was happening in the moment. Which made one conversation that we had several months ago seem odd. I asked how her day had been and she told me it had been a great day – that she had gone to visit her family – and as she went up to the house, her parents and her family – brothers and sisters – all came running out to see her, and they were yelling, “Rachel’s home! Oh, Rachel’s home!” I remember her exact words seemed so filled with joy, “Oh, Rachel’s home!” This week, I’ve remembered that conversation and I’ve wondered if Mom had a vision that day of what must’ve happened last Monday.
Rachel IS home.
And Mom, we’ll be coming along soon, too.