In my book of remembrances the exploits of Leola shine through. She's gone now, safe in the embrace of the Heavenly Father she loved and served so well.
Leola lived with her husband, two children, and elderly mother-in-law on a small vegetable farm about 60 km outside of Timmins, Ontario. They faithfully came into church every Sunday and after Leola's husband died, she took her life into her hands and learned to drive their old car herself. She worked in our Sunday School until she could work no more. When the car finally gave up the ghost, Leola bought herself a set of leathers and persuaded her son to come out to the farm on his motorcycle and pick her up for Sunday services. By this time she was well past retirement age. Always prim and proper, she'd change from her leathers into a dress and hat when she got to church.
Leola kept working the farm for as long as she could, even after the cancer diagnosis. But she quietly went about other business as well. She prayed through the church directory every day. She wrote regularly and faithfully to every missionary the church supported. During my years overseas it was no surprise to receive care packages from Leola–she was known among the MKs (missionary kids) as the "Kool-Aid" lady. Considering that her resources were very limited, those care packages, and the postage it cost to mail them all over the world, represented a sacrifice.
This amazing little lady also successfully completed a number of correspondence courses by mail from a seminary in Toronto, including several years worth of New Testament Greek. God had blessed her with a first-class mind.
Cancer became her shadow but she never allowed it to rule her life. In the letters I received from her she often joked about the various stages of the disease and how they, or their treatment, was affecting her. She would come into town for doctor's appointments, stop off at the church to rest between sessions or to practice Tai Chi in one of the rooms. We'd sometime catch her napping.
My last remembrance of Leola was the corn roast she hosted for the church family at her farm. I was home on Home Assignment that year. Her frailty was obvious, but she continued with her positive spirit though now it was tempered with that faraway longing for "home" in her eyes.
A friend recently told me that Leola, knowing that Lil loved teacups, had given her a beautiful pair edged in gold that she had received as a wedding gift fifty years earlier. Lil visited Leola in the hospital just before she died. Leola was unable to speak by that time. Lil worried about those teacups and wondered if perhaps Leola might have wanted to pass them on to her daughter. When she asked Leola about it, this plucky little woman gave Lil a huge smile and bravely nodded her head. "No" she indicated.
When I think of Leola I think of the widow that Jesus used as an example of faith and generosity in Luke 21. This dear woman gave everything she could to the Lord and he commended her for it. Just as she is remembered for her quiet walk of faith, so some of us remember Leola and endeavor to walk in her footsteps. And for such a little lady she left us big shoes to fill.