A few years ago Gloria made a short video, “Understanding God’s Gifts,” where she spoke of her cancer as a gift (click here to view). While cancer has taken our dear friend and certainly doesn’t feel like a gift, I have a feeling that today Gloria sees it as a priceless gift—her vehicle to glory—a gift of inexpressible value. I am also quite sure, though we grieve the loss of her physical presence, that we have received an amazing and valuable gift that will keep on giving—the “Gift of Gloria.” Gloria’s life was (and will continue to be) a gift. A testimony. A sermon. A source of comfort. An example. An upward call. A reminder. A smile producer. A reminder of all good things in Christ. An encouragement as we finish our race. A mentor. A friend…and much more. My eyes have shed many tears, as there will be a gap until I see my dear friend again—but my heart is full remembering beautiful, effervescent, radiant, and glorious Gloria. Gloria’s life had the ripple effect, amidst joy and in suffering. “…and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5:2-5 As Gloria, through God’s spirit, only let suffering cause her to grow in all these qualities, she (through God’s pitcher… as she so beautifully expressed) poured this love out onto countless others. As she poured out God’s love, the outpouring created a ripple effect—crossing oceans and spanning continents. Several of her character qualities that stand out to me and have called me higher are:
- Humility. Soon after I met Gloria, in the late 80’s, I remember being at a staff meeting with her in Lexington, Massachusetts. The staff had grown quickly, as many ministers migrated to Boston, and soon overwhelmed the little office building. The administrative staff struggled to get work done on Tuesdays (staff meeting days) because of the traffic of people wandering upstairs through their offices, especially to use the phones. (This was in the days before cell phones.) In response to this difficulty, the church installed a pay phone (yes, they were a thing back in the day) in the downstairs staff room. I remember Gloria (who was an elder’s wife by then), looking for a dime to make a call. One of the administrative staff told her that she was welcome at any time to use the upstairs phones. But Gloria used the downstairs pay phone. She would never want to be or cause one to stumble through any sense of entitlement. Gloria’s definition of leadership matched Jesus’ definition. Gloria always saw herself through her deep understanding of her personal discipleship—a servant of Jesus.
- Laughter. How her joy radiated. My first taste of this came soon after we moved to Boston. I don’t remember the occasion, but we were seated on stage at a Sunday service in the Boston Garden. Gloria’s chair had inadvertently been set up with the back legs of the chair too close to the back edge of the stage. Yes, in front of thousands of people (though we found out that amazingly many had missed the crazy happening) her chair went backward and she fell back, her legs flying in the air. Thankfully, she was not hurt at all and we laughed hard afterward. Gloria could laugh at herself, and she could find the joy in most any situation. I will miss laughing with Gloria. She would place herself with and beside those who were hurting and struggling—and help them find the peace and joy Jesus offers. Her life was surrendered to Jesus, leaving her with the freedom to laugh at the days to come…and to enjoy God’s sense of humor through his creation.
- An expresser of the Word of life. Gloria always had a scripture on her heart. She knew that the power of God was expressed through his Word. She understood that the impact of her words came through God’s words. I can rarely recount a conversation with Gloria where scripture was not used. It just flowed from her heart and through her lips. This scripture expresses well her heart.
- A learner. Gloria knew a lot. However, she never felt she had it all wrapped up. Gloria was always eager to learn. Her pursuit of growth, her study of the Word, her sharing of weaknesses and ways she longed to grow, her vulnerability, her listening ear—all testified to her eagerness to learn. Suffering taught her. Things gone awry taught her. Joy taught her. Trials taught her. Children taught her. The newest Christian taught her. A struggling Christian taught her. Life taught her. I believe this heart to learn kept her spirit exuberant. She awaited the new treasures of wisdom God had in store each day. Learning was great, because not only did she draw closer to the heart of God, but she had more to give! And giving was her life.
- A friend, mentor, and confidante. Now my tears flow. Gloria was my friend. She cared about my life. She asked about my life. She cried with me. She prayed with me. She laughed with me. She added flavor and zest to life. I confided in her, as she was a safe place. But as a true friend, she did likewise with me. Gloria was authentic. As a daughter of God, a wife, mother, Nonna, sister, friend…and many other roles, she was the real deal. The heart of her husband trusted in her. Her children and grandchildren have risen up and called her blessed.