December 03, 2016

The Gift of Family by Steph Beth Nickel

This month's theme is "the gift." I can't help but think of my mother-in-law, who recently went to be with the Lord. Here are the thoughts I shared at her funeral:

On Friday, November 11, 2016, we celebrated by mother-in-law’s home-going. She had gone to be with the Lord the previous Tuesday while her granddaughter read to her from the Bible.

Although Dave’s mom could no longer speak, she could make her wishes understood. She wanted us to read from God’s Word, pray, and give her frequent hugs. What a precious way to exit this world and enter eternity!

These memories will be with me for years to come—as will the legacy she left behind.
What did I learn from my mother-in-law over the years?

You don’t have to wait until it’s official to welcome someone into your family.

Among many other things, “love is patient and kind,” as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4.

I remember the first Christmas Dave and I were together, December 1981. Dave’s mom knit me the first of many sweaters and welcomed me into her home and into her heart. I knew then, seven and a half months before I officially became a Nickel, that I was already one of the family.

It’s an expression of love to step outside your comfort zone for the sake of others.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Although Dad and Mom traveled extensively, Mom wasn’t comfortable in the big city. I could tell this the first time they came to take Dave and I out to supper. We were both attending Ontario Bible College, now Tyndale, in Willowdale. I can still remember the two of them in the doorway of the school. They looked uncomfortable, but still, they were there to reach out in love—something they both did countless times over the years.

Little expressions of love make a lasting impact.

First Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Many years later, a simple act of kindness was destined to make a lasting impression on me. After Dad suffered his first aneurysm, Mom stepped up and cared for him in many areas he hadn’t previously needed help. By removing his shoes and socks and placing his slippers on his feet, I clearly saw her loving, selfless servant’s heart and I was challenged to love in even the most seemingly menial of ways.

Being appreciative is a lovely way to live.

The apostle Paul often gave thanks for his brothers and sisters in Christ. In Ephesians 1:16, it says, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

I have to thank my sister-in-law and her husband for taking care of Mom’s needs for the last number of years. They were there for her and it didn’t go unnoticed. Although Dave and I only live 40 minutes away, too many months went by between visits. Still, Mom was always happy to see us and let us know how much our visits meant to her. She was such a gracious lady.

It’s people that matter—not things.

In Matthew 6:20, we are instructed to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

It blew me away to learn what Mom said the last time Mavis took her through the house she had lived in for years. Mom was getting ready to put it on the market and we wanted to make sure she had everything she wanted before her belongings were packed up and given to those who wanted them. Mom said that there was no longer anything for her in the house. Oh to hold onto material possessions with such a light grip!

The only things she wanted in the nursing home were her knitting supplies, some of her books, and pictures of family and friends. It was those photographs that surrounded her at the care centre, pictures of those she loved and prayed for faithfully.

Deep, genuine faith can be quiet and strong.

Colossians 2:6-7 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

While those who knew my mother-in-law would not have referred to her as pushy or preachy, it didn’t take long to learn that her faith was genuine and deep. Her response when I read to her from the book of Psalms and her folded hands asking us to pray with her when her words could no longer do so were proof of that.

Mom prayed for family, friends, her church family, and many others around the globe. She knew her Bible and through hand gestures, indicated what passages she wanted read to her, showing just how well she knew the Scriptures.

This dear lady has left a legacy for us—and I pray that many of us will learn the lessons her life exemplified so clearly.

Have you lost someone close to you? How do you remember them? What legacy did they leave?

How do you want to be remembered? Are you living in such a way as to make it a reality? What changes are you willing to make to ensure that you will be remembered for your deep faith and selfless love?

Family members who point us to Jesus are, indeed, a priceless gift.


  1. What a lovely tribute to a Godly lady!

  2. By her example, she gave you and the rest of the family the gifts of love, acceptance, grace, prayer, love of God's words, example, and, no doubt, many more attributes . . . Paul wrote to Titus to teach the older women how to give an example to the younger women of how to live their faith. (Titus 3:2-5) Your mother-in-law set a good example. May God bless her with eternal peace and rest.

  3. So beautiful. Such an affirmation of correct priorities. Such a wonderful gift your mother in law was, Steph. And a lovely tribute to her. Well done.

  4. As others have already said, this is a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law, Steph. What a great gift she gave her family in teaching you how to live well.

  5. What a wonderful tribute to your mother-in-law who left as her legacy a loving and Godly spirit. My mom passed away Christmas Day, and memories of her selfless love still set off tears in the midst of family celebrations. But I'm comforted by the thought that she's celebrating Christmas with Jesus. Nina Faye Morey


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