This week a dear woman from our church died after a short and sudden illness, and we all feel her loss. Muriel Wolanski was always helping others. She was the first to bring a meal after a baby was born and the first to visit in the hospital after a surgery. She sent a card when someone was grieving and phoned when someone needed encouragement. Besides that, she was a ton of fun. She did a good job of keeping her age hidden – not because she didn’t like saying it, but because she was so busy and energetic that most people assumed she was much younger. Several people at her funeral today were shocked to learn that she was 76 years old. Still, we were not at all ready to lose her. Today, I’d like to share my lessons learned from Muriel.
- Don’t wait to be asked
What made Muriel extra special was that she never had to be asked to help someone. If someone was sick, she just called. If someone was struggling she just brought over a meal. She didn’t wait for the person to let her know “if they needed anything.” She just saw a need and did it. Sometimes I’m afraid of overstepping, or I don’t want to do something that may not be needed. You know what Muriel taught me? Kindness never oversteps. If they don’t want the meal, they’ll just freeze it for later. But the love will always be appreciated. Thanks for teaching me that, Muriel.
- Remember the forgotten
There is one group of people that gets most overlooked when it comes to care: people with chronic illness. These are the people who have things like Crohn’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis or depression. When people have a surgery or loss or an illness that may be cured, we can all be good at stepping in to help. But people get tired of caring for the people who never get better. It can be discouraging to always hear “not great” when you ask “how are you?” It can be hard to feel helpless when someone’s journey of illness is ongoing. But Muriel never forgot them. Muriel reminded me to not forget people who are always sick, but aren’t always supported. Thanks for teaching me that, Muriel.
3. We never retire from our true vocation
Muriel was a devoted nurse for many years, and when she retired it was like she just saw that as giving her more time to live out her calling. Until the final days of her life, Muriel visited sick people and advocated for them in hospital. She stayed with friends recovering from surgeries and she served as an “on-call’ nurse for anyone in her life that needed one. She never stopped nursing. It was what God had called her to do and she kept doing it. And God used her. Thanks for teaching me that we always have a call to live into, Muriel.
4. it’s never too late
Last year, at the age of 75, Muriel got her Bachelor of Arts degree. Three years ago, Muriel went on a mission trip to Kenya. HOW COOL WAS SHE??? Muriel taught me that it’s never too late in life to try something new, to take on a challenge or to live a dream. Sometimes, as I get further into my fourth decade of life, I find myself thinking “Oh it’s too late” for something I wanted to try or hoped to do. Thanks for teaching me that’s a pack of nonsense, Muriel. If you can get a degree at 75, I can surely take up pottery if I feel like it.
- When you get a chance, DANCE.
So, Muriel was hilarious.
This fall we went on a women’s retreat with ladies from our church. They asked for volunteers to join in a dance contest. Now, I’m pretty outgoing, but that kind of thing could make me flat out faint on the spot. While I was cowering and making sure my hand stayed as low as possible, Muriel was up and dancing on that stage before I could even say “no thank-you” – and she danced to win.
This week, you know one of the first things people said about her as we reminisced? “I’ll never forget her dancing at Elim.” What an amazing memory she gave us, and I am so thankful for that moment that I will always carry in my heart. Thanks for dancing, Muriel. Thanks for giving us that special memory.
Muriel – there is so much for which I am thankful.
Thanks for teaching me to dance.
Thanks for teaching me to learn.
Thanks for teaching me to give.
Thanks for teaching me to love.
Thanks – for teaching me how to live.
How about you? If you knew Muriel, what did you learn from her life? Or the life of someone else that modeled important things to you?…I’d love to hear your thoughts!