Ruth – WCSS study

We will be studying the Book of Ruth in our Scripture Study class this week. I have read the Bible passages several times and answered the questions after the commentary. Today I decided to slowly read it in the Adoration Chapel. There were some passages which became more clear to me as I read. Perhaps as the author above says, it was “the still, small voice of God speaking to me” through His words.

In Chapter 1 we are told of the experiences of the family of Elimelech. He and his family seek refuge in Moab because of the famine in their home town of Bethlehem. The family includes a father, mother and two sons – perhaps fairly young. Some time after their arrival in Moab, the father Elimelech dies and the sons Malon and Chilion marry Moabite women. After about ten years both of the sons died. Neither of the sons’ wives had given birth to children or the Bible would have spoken of them.

Naomi, the mother, decides to return to Bethlehem. Her two daughters-in-law travel with her.  Naomi is now truly alone, for there is no one close to her who knows who she truly is – a daughter of Abraham. Who shares her culture, her thoughts, her knowledge of the God of Abraham, to whom can she truly speak the feelings of her heart? Much like my grandmother was after all her friends and family had died – no one knew the world as she did. No one. Such a life is a truly lonely life.

As the women proceed on their way, Naomi instructs the younger women to go back to their birth families, so that they can seek new husbands. Naomi decides she must travel the way alone. She is desolate and without hope, for she knows that she is too old to marry or have children. She can offer nothing to the two women who accompany her – she is probably penniless as women did not inherit their husband’s property. Perhaps in Naomi’s mind, she thinks she might die on the journey to Judah. A woman traveling alone, then as now, was a target for unscrupulous and violent men. Perhaps that is acceptable to Naomi, for she sees no future for herself here or in Bethlehem; she is consumed by grief. In a gesture of love she attempts to send the two younger women, Orpah and Ruth, away. She blesses the women and prays that God will grant them a husband and a home. The two younger women don’t want to leave Naomi, for over time they have come to love her. Naomi is convinced that God has done this to her, that “He has extended His hand against her” in taking Naomi’s family away from her.

The distance between Moab and Bethlehem is between 30 and 60 miles, depending on where the starting point was. This would have taken between 7 and 10 days to make the journey if one was walking.

Orpah finally is persuaded to leave, but Ruth cannot be persuaded. Naomi says to Ruth, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her god.” When Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s sons, they accepted and worshiped their husbands God (probably the custom of the time). By returning to their own people Orpah and Ruth would return to their own people’s ways and worship the god of the Moabites. Ruth refuses to go and makes the most astounding statement: “wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my people and your God my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there be buried.” Ruth is willing to give up everything – family, friends, a future and to be buried among her people – for love of Naomi. One could ponder what kind of life Ruth had before marrying Naomi’s son? What had Ruth seen and experienced in Naomi’s home? How was it different from the life she had known before? Those questions cloud the real reason for Ruth’s drastic and courageous choice – love of Naomi.

In the time that Ruth lived with Naomi’s family, she had come to know their God. And God, we are told, gave to Ruth the gift of faith in Him. By traveling with Naomi, Ruth gives the older woman Naomi a gift as well – a reason to live, if not for herself, then for Ruth. No more can Naomi wait for or hope for death in the wilderness. She must live for Ruth, for she loves Ruth as a daughter and would not leave her to face the hostile wilderness alone.

Ruth – a woman of substance

watercolor – F. McDonald

In the Book of Ruth we meet a family – Elimelech, his wife Naomi and two sons, Malon and Chilion. They leave their homeland in Bethlehem and travel to Moab, because there is a famine in Israel. What does that mean? The rains have not come, and the crops have failed. The wells may be running dry. In Israel with its hills and valleys, canals as they had in Egypt were of no use. Unless God sent the rain, the crops would fail. Sometimes we fail to see in the stories of this ancient land parallels to our own lives, because our lives are so different. For us there are supplies of food stored in other locations; we have a public water supply. While we may have to decrease our use of water, we never think that there may not be enough to drink to sustain our lives. A drought to us is simply an inconvenience.

Elimelech did all that he was supposed to do – protect his family. It reminded me this morning of the set of stories that came from “Sarah, Plain and Tall“. In one of the stories the husband Caleb sends his wife Sarah and the two children back to New England where Sarah’s family lives. The crops have failed, the wells are running dry. Caleb stays at the farm to take care of it, while he sends his family to safety. Sending his family away causes great distress to Caleb, yet he does all he can to protect his family. Elimelech did not have that option. He had to travel with his family.

In thinking about the story of Elimelech, it occurred to me that God plants a seed, perhaps a kernel of the man’s truth, in the heart of every man who is called to be a husband and a father. That little seed develops as the man grows, marries and has a family. The man comes to recognize his primary responsibility – to care for his family, no matter the physical or mental cost to him. For this reason the man goes out to work every day, raising crops or working for someone else to support his family. While we may see a man as having ambition because he works long hours and tries to advance in his career, the ambition is really at the service of his family.

For some men that seed may be poorly developed or even damaged in some way – the man fails to work to support his family, or he abuses his family or even abandons them. Perhaps that man sees his ambition as only for himself. That man has failed in his calling. Sometimes the man does not know what his responsibilities are – perhaps no one has taught him. The recent film “Courageous” is a good way of thinking about those responsibilities. In the film a father, who has lost a young daughter in a tragic accident, eventually comes to a realization of what his responsibilities are and that his calling is from God. He comes to understand that his calling is Holy, that he has been set apart by God for a specific purpose.

I like the thought given to us by the commentary that we can see through the story of Ruth that God works out His purpose, that God uses the events and the environment around us to fulfill His plan of salvation. Without moving to Moab, Chilion could not have met Ruth and married her. Ruth could not have come to know the God of Israel and traveled to Bethlehem with Naomi.  Ruth could not have been the great grandmother of David. Something in Ruth’s character perhaps – call it DNA if you want to be scientific about it – was to be passed on to David and from David eventually to the Messiah. What was that something – loyalty, complete love of God and another, total dedication to a purpose, courage? Our Bible tells us that God brought Gentiles into the heritage of Jesus, the Messiah, for Jesus came to save all of us –  Gentiles and Jews alike.

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Becoming Women of the Word

After reading the book “Becoming Women of the Word” by Sarah Christmyer, I encouraged our zoom group to choose one woman from the Bible to think about and talk about when we have our last meeting on the book. I know that some of the ladies will be talking about their confirmation saint. But what do I talk about?

I have been thinking all week about this topic. What do these women have in common besides being included in the Bible? The women we talked about started at Eve, the first woman, and went all the way through the Old Testament to Mary, Mother of our Lord. Several of the women intrigued me, as I learned more about them, at the choices they made and their way of life. Some of the women I knew only a little about as I had heard about them at Mass, but nothing more. Four of these women caught my attention as I reflected on the Christmyer book over this last week. These women are Deborah, Hannah, Esther, and Judith. And, of course, Eve, our first mother.

“Eve, the first woman, woke up to love…she was created specially by God to solve that one not-good thing. Eve woke up to completeness and to relationship.” From the very beginning Eve knew she was loved and was a necessary part of God’s awesome creation. Eve was beautiful to look at and wonderful to be with – she was loved by her partner, Adam. Eve also had a mind of her own, a way of thinking that was different than Adam’s.  Eve made her own decision – in the beginning – a decision that changed the course of human history from what it was meant to be. From what we read of Eve’s life, we can speculate that her life was difficult and filled with pain, heartbreak and loss. From the names Eve gave her sons, we see also that Eve had a deep and abiding relationship with God. While Eve had not trusted God in the beginning, Eve had turned back to God as time went on.

Though Sarah, Miriam, Leah and Rachel, and Rahab’s lives were interesting  – they didn’t particularly appeal to me as I felt no connection to them.  I will always love Ruth for the way she lived her life, for how much she loved and because her story gave so much joy to my mom in her last years. 

Deborah, Hannah, Esther and Judith – What did these four women have in common that led to their astounding and memorable  lives? Why are they called “mothers of faith”? What do they have to teach me? I have come to believe that they are women of deep prayer, trust in God, obedience to His Word and a willingness to act on His behalf. They are also women who love greatly for in some way they each risked their lives and happiness for another.

Deborah –  She lived during the time of the judges after Joshua had died. Deborah was known for her wisdom, her fairness and her trust in the Lord. Our book tells us that “Deborah stands out for her wisdom, openness, and obedience to God. Like Rahab, she acted on what she believed. She heard and declared the word of God.” Because of Deborah’s trust in God, she was unafraid; she knew that God was more powerful than any army. Deborah accompanied Barak, God’s chosen general, as he marched against the Canaanites and witnessed the defeat of their powerful enemy.

“Deborah heard and declared the word of God.” One does not hear God’s word unless one prays, that is, listens to God whether it be through the natural world, reading of Scripture or other spiritual books or carrying on a communication with Him. Deborah could trust God because she knew Him. Deborah knew her people’s history, so she knew that God was faithful to His promise. When God said to Deborah, “Are you coming?”, she followed.

We meet Hannah next in our study. Hannah, whose name means, “grace”, is loved by her husband but she is barren – Hannah has no children, although her husband’s second wife, Penninah does. On one of the yearly  visits to the shrine at Shiloh with her family, Hannah pleads with God to give her a son. Her powerful prayer is answered a year later, and after he is weaned  Hannah returns the son to God to serve Him at the shrine. Hannah’s son became the  great prophet, Samuel. Hannah gave God a great gift in her son, Samuel, but as we know God is never outdone – He gave Hannah more children.

What is astounding to me about Hannah is that after she prays, she is at peace. Does she hear an answer to her prayer immediately? How is it that Hannah can trust, that her prayer changes her demeanor unless she heard an answer to her prayer? Is Hannah’s faith so large that she trusts God implicitly? How did she come by her faith? Like Deborah, did Hannah know the history of her people? The author states, “Hannah knew that God was able to help her, she believed He would hear and understand her need.” Is Hannah’s trust that God had heard her prayer a response to the question that God poses for all of  us, “are you coming”?

Esther – the story takes place in a far off land where many Jews have been sent into exile. Through a series of circumstances, many almost miraculous, Esther has become the queen. No one knows that Esther or Hadassah is a Jew, that “she carries God’s hidden presence” within her. When an enemy within the palace convinces the king to destroy all the Jews, Esther’s  cousin, Mordecai, tells her, “if you keep silent at  such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Esther knew to go to God as she realized how powerless she was and how desperate the plight of her people were. How did she come to the realization that God could and would help? Was it through what she had learned as a child? Esther knew the history of her people and believed that God would be true to His promise to protect them. She asked all the Jews of Susa, where she was living, to fast and pray with her.  

Esther was prepared to forfeit her life to save her people. Only after Esther prayed, did she act. Was it in the act of praying that her plan was formulated? Did she listen to the Lord and gain wisdom from Him? From where comes the courage to risk one’s life to save another? Did Esther hear the Lord’s voice and see His outstretched Hand, beckoning her to follow?

The final woman who interested me  is Judith. Like the story of Esther, this is an amalgam of many stories meant to teach a lesson to the people. Whether it is true in all its details is not its purpose, for it is meant to call people to faith. Judith is a widow, who after she loses her husband, abandons her home and lives in a tent on her roof. She only inhabits her home for the Sabbath and feast days as a way of honoring God. Perhaps there were practical reasons for living on the roof – it would have been cooler as the breeze was not blocked by stone or stucco walls. However, it is more likely that Judith wanted to be closer to God. Judith’s daily habit of prayer, the author tells us, “has given her a perspective that the others in her town don’t have.” Judith had “the respect of the entire community because they knew of her total devotion to God.” 

When a powerful enemy surrounds the city and threatens to annihilate the people, Judith warns the people not to test God by giving Him a set time to act. Instead Judith “fell on her face and cried to God. She was so certain of God that she was ready to risk her life so that He could act.” Judith prayed that God would give her the wisdom and strength to do what she knew had to be done. “Judith armed herself with the gifts God gave her – beauty and wit.” When she was finally alone with the enemy general, she prayed twice for God’s help and strength. And then Judith cut off the head of the enemy. Throughout the entire trial Judith prayed and trusted in the Lord. Her people were saved by her courageous actions. When God asked her to follow, she reached out for His hand and took it.

What gift do all these stories have for me? What have I learned from them? Do I have the courage and strength to  take God’s Hand when He calls me and to follow Him? Do I have the love for others that these women displayed? I pray that I do, yet only time will tell.

 

What Leah and Rachel taught me

The book club group has been reading “Becoming Women of the Word” by Sarah Christmyer. It is a wonderful book full of insights into the lives and stories of Biblical Women from Eve, mother of the living all the way to Judith. All of these women lived in a time we can only imagine, long before the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. They have much to teach us through their lives and what little we can find of their words. They were all women of courage.

Because we are all women, like those we are reading about, we share physical needs and desires. Whether we are able to have children or not, we are naturally, by design “mothers”. Our motherhood is in our DNA, our gift from our Creator. We share a need to be loved and to love; we are “hard wired” for compassion and kindness to others. Physically we are not as strong as men, for women’s bodies do not develop the muscle mass that men’s bodies do. But women’s lives call on us to be strong emotionally, sometimes in ways that men simply cannot be strong.

Over the centuries our cultures have developed such that men are the head of the family. In reading and studying the Bible, it is obvious that God designed it that way. But the heart of the family is the mother, the woman, for only she has the emotional capacity to be that center of the home.

Because Leah and Rachel were sisters, I felt a real connection with them. I, too, had sisters, though they are all passed from this life. In the relationship and struggles which Leah and Rachel had, I recognized struggles of my own with my sisters. And through thinking about Leah and Rachel’s relationship, I began to see parts of myself that were unflattering, things that I had done, ways that I had related to my sisters that were hurtful to them and eventually to me.

My sisters and I shared a common parentage. We shared a common history and many of the same experiences. Each of us had physical and intellectual abilities that were different, but our emotional needs were the same – we needed to be loved and valued by those we loved.

The four of us

In reflecting on my relationship with my sisters, I have recognized that we share more than what is apparent. Though we have a similar appearance in our physical characteristics, we each had physical limitations which were different from one another. Two of us were afflicted with diabetes. All of us struggled with our weight. We were all intelligent, though in different ways. We all had desires for our life and attempted to use our physical and intellectual gifts in ways that were pleasing to us. Not all of us were successful in the eyes of the world or even perhaps in our own lives. We all needed to be loved, and though we all were loved by our parents,  we all experienced that love differently. To some of us that love and respect of our parents was adequate. To others of us, there was never enough love.

As we have seen with Leah and Rachel’s story, my sisters and I eventually came to some sort of peace within ourselves and with each other, sometimes not until we were close to death. We found and made the best we could with the lives we were given. We loved and were loved, but not to the degree we had hoped. Two of us had children – one apiece. My sister Jean “mothered” the patients she served in her many years as a nurse. My youngest sister Jill “mothered” many who came into contact with her, including me in those last years of her difficult and painful life.

I have many regrets about the ways I treated two of my sisters – Jean and Jill.  I responded to some events in their lives in ways that was unloving and unkind. There were times that I could have treated the two of them with more respect and understanding, but I did not. I chose to think of myself and my needs and not theirs. I recognize that the fault was not just mine, for the attitudes and behavior of others changes and affects our own attitude and behavior toward them. That is the “curse” of being alive, of relating to others, of learning about life and love. We seem unable to be free to just love the other for who and what they are.

I wonder about Leah and Rachel. From their stories we can see that life changed them as they struggled with their relationship to their common husband and to each other. Leah seemed to have found what her heart needed. Though Leah wanted the love of her husband, she found comfort in her children and in the role which was given to her. Rachel, who had the love of her husband, eventually had two children by him, but still grasped for what was not hers. In the end Rachel seemed unfulfilled by her life.

Lines that were especially meaningful to me — “the woman who learned to stop expecting a man to fulfill her and who instead turned her eyes to her heavenly Father was specially blessed (that was Leah)” and “God uses us as we are – struggles, insecurities, and all”.

I wonder as my life continues – how is God using me? With all my mistakes and missteps, with all the hurt that I have passed on to others, what good will come of my life? Will I look back over the years as my last days come and feel fulfilled, or will I, like Rachel, wish that there had been more?

“It makes me wonder, when I struggle with my own empty heart, if I say yes and receive him, might the Lord do something extraordinary with me?” – the very last line in Leah and Rachel’s story. So I wait to see if the Lord will do something extraordinary with me.

Mary Magdalen

I was thinking the other day how difficult it must have been for Mary Magdalen and the other women to return to Jesus’ tomb. Most of us, me included,  don’t like touching a dead body especially of someone we love. It seems so permanent and unreal. It is cold. In the case of Jesus, His body was so tortured, so broken and hurt, it would have taken real courage to touch Him again, to remember those last hours of His life on earth.

When someone close to us dies, the feelings we have are so visceral. It is as though our guts are ripped out. The pain is often unbearable.

For Mary and the other women who have grieved the past two days to re-visit the grave, to open themselves to re-visit and re-experience those first feelings of grief – who would want to experience those things again? Would I have the courage to do that? I guess only those who loved much. They were women of great courage and great love. Perhaps in caring for Jesus’ body, for washing and anointing Him, for re-wrapping Him in clean linen sheets – it was the last time they could show Him their love, though they thought Him gone.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

Luke 1:5:25

Poppies and pots watercolor F. McDonald

Zechariah was a priest (Levite), Elizabeth, his wife a descendant of Aaron, also a Levite

The Bible says that both were righteous, living blamelessly but they had no children, which at that time was said to be a curse or condemnation from God.

“…once when he (Zechariah) was serving as priest (in the Temple), he was chosen by lot to offer incense in the sanctuary…the whole assembly of the people were praying outside…”Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” (the angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah)…” After serving his time in the Temple, Elizabeth conceived a child, even though both she and Zechariah were old. “for five months Elizabeth remained in seclusion.”

Two elderly people doing their best to serve their Lord, yet for all the joy and goodness of their lives together, they had no children. They persisted in honoring God. When Elizabeth conceives, did she wonder how and why? Did Zechariah tell Elizabeth about the angel’s message? Did Elizabeth believe that her days were now filled with wonder?

So many questions which the Bible does not answer.

Martha thoughts – John Chapter 12 verses 1-3

“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for Him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Usually when commenting on these verses one would talk about the selfless act of Mary. But what I have imagined is the change in Martha. At another dinner some time ago, Martha complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her with the guests. Jesus told Martha that “Mary has chosen the better part.” Was Martha hurt by those words, or did she learn something valuable from them? Did Martha ponder those words as she went about her daily tasks?

I think Martha learned something, perhaps something that changed her life from that earlier encounter. Martha took care of her guests; she prepared the food and served the guests, as she had always done. But this particular Guest, Martha served with even more love. Not only had Jesus raised Martha’s brother from death, but Jesus had opened Martha’s heart even wider to His love. Now Martha serves her guests with peace in her heart. And when Martha approaches Jesus with her gifts, He looks on her with love – and she notices His look and takes the time to reflect on the love He has shared with her. In Jesus’ eyes is love and thankfulness for Martha’s service. That look of love fills Martha’s heart with joy. Whether Martha does all the work or not, she no longer worries about what Mary is doing, that Mary is not helping. Martha focuses on the gift the Lord has given to her and is at peace. Finally, at peace.

The Lord is grateful for our service, no matter how small our gift, for our love and service is the most important thing to Him – and He sees only us when we serve Him.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Virgin MotherAll this week, Holy Week, I have been thinking of Mary, of what she experienced. And I have been thinking that some of my own life may be similar, not in some great way but just in a little way. When Mary said “yes” to the angel Gabriel, she didn’t know all that would be expected of her, of all that she would suffer because of that “yes”. So much like our own lives. We say “yes” to marriage, to a child, to our faith, to love and we have no idea what all those commitments will bring. We say “yes” out of love or need or desire or because we think it necessary or appropriate, and then as we live our lives, we come to recognize what that “yes” entails. Sometimes that “yes”, as for Mary, brings great joy. Sometimes that “yes” brings great heartache. But always that  “yes” means that we follow a path, not knowing where that “yes” will bring us. What did Mary think as she experienced the great sadness of Holy Week? Was her soul so connected to God that she could quietly accept all things, even the torture and death of her Son? Did she ask “why?” must this be? Did she just bow her head and thank God for the goodness her life held and hope that the future would be good as well? Or did the terror of Jesus Passion tear her apart? I think somehow Mary knew that all would be well. Whether Jesus taught her this or she recognized that truth from her studies of Scripture or  her intimate connection with God gave her that certainty – the Bible gives us no answer. We are left to ponder, as Mary did.

Mary and the Way of the Cross

Karen’s friend, Shawn, wrote a post recently about the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Way of the Cross. According to Shawn and others, after Jesus’ Ascension, Mary would often retrace her Son’s steps on that final fateful day. She would pass each of the places where she saw her Son on his way to Calvary. Later, when Mary had moved to Ephesus with John, she built a little Way of the Cross in her garden and used the area as a place of meditation. I had heard about this part of the story before. Shawn had suggested that we think of Mary as we pray the Stations of the Cross. That might be good if we do the stations by ourselves, but I can’t imagine how I could when the priest is leading a large group. I will try anyway tomorrow.

Blessed Virgin MaryI have often pondered what Mary thought, especially after her Son had gone. Did her life seem like a mystery or did she wonder if it was all real? There are parts of my life that I question. Once the time is well past, it is hard to remember all the little bits of an event. Sometimes I think that I just dreamed the event, that it couldn’t be true.

She was so blessed and yet how difficult her life must have been.

“We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses” – the holy women around us

cloud of witnessesOur world and our news are so filled with stories of fraud and deceit and people who seek only to impose their wills on others, to gain enormous power no matter who or how many are hurt by their actions. It is easy to forget that we are surrounded by stories of goodness and redemption. They are not stories which the news people will tell, because they speak of a deep faith in God, a faith which changes lives.

I wanted to share  something that happened to a friend of mine in San Angelo. Sylvia  is a wonderful, faith-filled Christian woman. Sylvia’s life has been a difficult one. She was forced into marriage at age 13 with an abusive young man, because she was out with her friends later than permitted. Sylvia had several children and was able, after a time, to divorce her husband and make a life for herself and her children. Sylvia’s relationship with her own mother was difficult, as you might imagine.

Sylvia fell in love with my mother, who though she had dementia, never lost her faith and her love for others. Sylvia spent the nights with my mother for most of the last three years of mom’s life. They slept near one another, in twin beds that were pushed up next to one another. Sylvia and my mom prayed together each night, holding hands as mom was accustomed to do with our dad.  Sylvia credits my mother’s love for her for her ability to offer forgiveness to her own mother before her mother died.

Silvia was visiting her daughter one Saturday evening about two weeks ago. They were preparing to watch a movie, but were waiting for another person to arrive. All at once Sylvia had this strong feeling that she had to go home. So despite her daughter’s protestations, Sylvia got into her truck and started home. On the freeway in San Angelo – it was 10 o’clock at night – Sylvia’s truck was nearly sent off the road by a driver who was going really, really fast. After Sylvia recovered from the fright and was headed home again, she saw that the truck, which had nearly hit her, had gone off the road, overturned several times and was lying upside down on the hill next to the highway. She stopped her truck, got out and ran up the hill to the overturned vehicle. There was a young man trapped inside, bleeding profusely. Sylvia comforted him as much as she could, having called 911 before she got to his truck. Sylvia sat there with him, unable to hold him but touching him, praying with him. The young man died just before or after the ambulance came.

I couldn’t help thinking that God sent Sylvia there to be a kind of angel, to be with the young man during those last moments. Sylvia could have kept on driving, but she didn’t. She told me that it is her habit each day, when she awakens, to ask God to show her His will. Sylvia believes that the Holy Spirit sent her home early that evening, so that she could be with the dying man. He was 22 years old. He had been a youth minister at his church for some time, until he got involved with drinking and drugs. His family were faithful Christians. Sylvia found out their name from the police and attended the funeral. The father was so full of grief – -as you might expect – not just because his son had died, but because he was concerned that his son had not returned to God before his death. Sylvia’s presence at his son’s side, her prayers with the dying young man comforted his parents. Sylvia made a difference in the young man’s life – not only by giving comfort, but more importantly perhaps, in helping to determine the young man’s final destination. At least that is how I see it. I pray that it was so.