Always and forever
The Lord looks after his children wherever they are.
The photo on my desk was taken 71 years ago. It shows my in-laws on their wedding day – February 14, 1951. Dad looks dapper in his dark, double-breasted suit; Mom is resplendent in her gorgeous white gown. Although he’s never one for emotional displays, there’s a definite light in Dad’s eyes. Mom bears a serene, confident smile – a lovely young couple anticipating the grand adventure ahead.
Like all starry-eyed newlyweds, they couldn’t possibly have known what the future held. That didn’t dampen their hopes and dreams. They had lived through WWII and now a sense of optimism and the prospect of a “better life” loomed on the horizon. Knowing of their plans to immigrate to Canada after their marriage, the pastor chose the wedding text from Deuteronomy 31: 6 (b) – “Fear not . . . for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Not that these two were planning to conquer Canaan, but it was an appropriate reminder that wherever God’s children go, he accompanies them. Always.
And so their journey as husband and wife began. A week after the wedding Dad headed off for Canada. He traveled over the ocean and half way across the continent to arrive in Fertile, Saskatchewan, where a bachelor uncle lived.
Mom followed a few months later. She learned English from the Sears catalogue. Before long a baby was on the way. Although people were kind, pregnancy wasn’t easy for Mom and the homesickness was more than she could handle. They returned to Holland where Nelly was born.
Coming back to Canada, they settled this time in Ontario, closer to Mom’s oldest sister and her family. Jack was born in Guelph. They lived in a few different places before calling Stoney Creek home for more than 20 years. Many young Dutch families immigrated in those days and Mom and Dad formed lifelong friendships with some of them. In 1983, they moved to Harriston. Family life centred on church and they served faithfully in various roles.
The promises of God
Ordinary days added up to more than 70 extraordinary years. The family grew as both Nelly and Jack got married. Mom and Dad welcomed the arrival of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They were always there for the school programmes, graduations, special milestones and weddings. They showed us all what genuine faith, love and commitment look like in the real world.
Last summer they moved to a seniors’ apartment in Drayton. Mom busied herself making it homey. She was organizing her closet one afternoon when Dad went out for groceries. He returned to find her collapsed on the floor, suffering terrible abdominal pain. The ambulance took her to the hospital. She never came home again.
Mom left us detailed instructions about her funeral. She chose the songs and scriptures and insisted that we refer to it as “A celebration of God’s grace in the life of his child, Maria Maartje Vander-Slikke.” She aimed to bring glory to God for his goodness to her.
My eyes overflowed as we sang: In mansions of glory and endless delight, I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
Mom has found her home in mansions of glory. Dad and the rest of us are left to grieve. Our tears flow not for her, but for our own broken hearts. In our sorrow we cling to God’s promise – Never will I leave you or forsake you! The Lord looks after his children wherever they are. Forever.