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An Earthen Vessel

by Esther Griggs

My mother was born Sept. 19, 1920. Her life could be considered that of a sad and tragic character. Mabel Louisa Jane was the first of six children, born to Lloyd and Lena Killins, in Fort William Ontario, which is now known as Thunder Bay. At the age of about 14, her father was travelling to a political meeting with a group of men. They were in the back of the truck. The driver of the truck was drunk and made an error in judgement at a railway crossing. Every man in the truck was killed, save the driver. Mother’s youngest sister was just a young baby at the time. Mother had to be a support to her mom whether in the home, or working for life’s necessities.

In her early 20’s, she married one of the young men from her youth group. He was dashing with a wander lust and big dreams. After having one baby, he whisked her away to British Columbia where a second was born. Mother did not like BC, and commented about the constant rain. She missed Fort William, and said that BC could never boast about what it had, as Fort William had all the same things. Dad lost all his big dreams in a log trucking accident, and they came back to Ontario. In the course of their marriage, they ventured from Northern Ontario to Central Algoma down to Oxford County, ending up with seven children. In those years, Dad struggled to find work, and was often away whether working on the boats or doing door to door sales or building roads. Mother was left in those times to fend for herself and her growing family, whether it meant cleaning the local school or growing a garden.

As the children grew, she was faced with many challenges. Many of their actions and decisions caused her life to be rearranged and many times left her emotionally devastated . She was often lonely, financially impoverished and burdened with the care of her growing family.

In her 61st year she lost her husband to a heart attack. For the next 5 years she herself suffered from the effects of diabetes and became legally blind, passing away in her 66th year.

There is, however, another part to the story: a golden thread weaved throughout, which not only balances, but creates a masterpiece, of great beauty, which was my Mother.

My mother was devoted to following Jesus Christ. As a young woman, amid the loss of her father, she became a blessing to her mother and a role model to her 3 younger brothers and 2 sisters.

She was devoted to my father and us children. Together they taught us to be involved with other Christians, to learn from the Bible and to pray. We saw many answers to prayer. My eldest brother’s life was threatened when he came upon some smugglers. He told my mother and she prayed. Not long hence the two men and their boat were discovered, both men having drowned. Years later my mother was prompted to pray for brother number 3, who loved his cars and going fast. His car had wrapped around a tree. He came home in one piece. More routinely, when there was nothing to eat in the house, through mother’s prayers, God prompted others to bring food or to invite us to dinner. We learned that prayers got answered.

She also taught us to share with those less fortunate. I remember her going through our clothes and telling us that this family had less than we did. She took care of others, whether it was a lonely elderly man that needed a good meal, an aunt and her family that were in transition and needed a place to stay, someone just needing a friend to pray and talk with or taking in her own mother suffering from dementia.

We also learned that bitter things happen, like decisions siblings made that left my folks reeling with hurt and anger. Those places were not stopping grounds. Instead they became illustrations of God’s ability to work through hurt and disappointment, to bring about forgiveness and healing, to teach a deep love which resulted in redemption.

In her later years, she became involved with WCTU, the women’s Christian temperance union, which endeavored to teach children and teens to abstain from alcohol. I believe it was a way she could fight, to keep other children from suffering as she did, after what had happened to her father.

In the last few years of my father’s life, through a further work of God’s grace, he began to truly love and appreciate who my mother was, providing for her more consistently than ever. When he passed, she found comfort in the scripture and prayer. God’s promises confirmed that she was not alone. She continued to support us with our children. I can still see her lying on the bottom bunk with my three year old singing ” I am riding on the hallelujah line, on the good ole gospel train”. Today, that son works for the railway. She was there for us until the end; listening and praying.

She has long been with her Saviour, but who and what she was lives on in the thoughts and practices of her children and theirs. She was a bright light in a dark world, which could have been extinguished, but was not. The grand masterpiece that was my mom, lives on in our memories. It reminds me, that with God, in the dark, trying and tragic places of our lives, there is a bright light. It shines out to our world and down through the memories of our loved ones. I am reminded of the last scripture she shared with me. It is in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not us.”

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