Mary Helen Purcell—In Memory - by Jim Purcell
Mary Helen was my mother. Reflecting on her life is difficult and complicated because she resonated so many valuable qualities in her life. Let’s see: there’s strength, courage, perseverance, loyalty, patience, tolerance, stubbornness, kindness, toiling, forgiveness, acceptance, forbearance, to mention just a few.
Here’s what two of her many friends said:
“She reinforced my belief that, while loving people is a wonderful goal, allowing them to love you is an even loftier aspiration. She made herself a very loveable person, and it was my pleasure to know and love her.”
“Even though this message made us feel sad and grieve the death of Mom Purcell, we want to let you know that our family from abroad are joining your family to celebrate Mom Purcell’s exemplary life which taught us so many important lessons.
“How wonderful it was to witness Mom Purcell’s peace, serenity, acceptance, patience, tolerance, kindness to us, showing appreciation and praising others around her. We never doubt that Mom Purcell’s faith in Jesus as our Savior made her the marvelous human being she was.
“Mom Purcell has left a legacy among us on how to be a special child of God holding an immense amount of peace and joy in her heart in complete contrast with her situation.”
That’s so true. For the last few years of her life, Mom was totally blind and suffered from many physical ailments. Yet, she never lost that spark, that spirit, that enthusiasm, that endurance that was her trademark.
Today, I want to concentrate today on one of her life qualities: sacrificial love.
Let me demonstrate that love in very personal way.
By the age of 18, I had attended three high schools, graduated, and was a major breadwinner for a family struggling with illness and uncertainty. I had visions of a future, but they were quickly vanishing. I was concerned about my family’s survival without my continued work and support.
I was at the point of giving up the notion of advancing beyond the present. I felt like George Bailey in the movie, It’s a wonderful life: I’ll never get out of Bedford Falls.
Mary Helen sensed my sagging spirits and came to me one night and said: Jimmy, the Lord has a plan for your life and it is my mission to help you get there. With few employable skills at the time, she vowed to support my next stage. And, she did.
Together, we took the first step: college. For me, that was a break-through step. Many succeeding steps followed, each building on the other. Eventually, I ended up, not too surprisingly, I guess, like my mom and dad, helping the less fortunate: refugees, migrants, and others of the least among us.
Over time, organizations I worked with assisted many millions of the less fortunate throughout the world. Several colleagues who worked with me in these endeavors are with us today.
As I look back now, the building blocks, starting with Mary Helens’s sacrificial offering to me, led, in large part, to these outcomes.
This reminds me again of “It’s a wonderful life”. Clarence, George Bailey’s angel, decided to show him what the world would have missed without him. In the same sense, I can now see what would have been missed if Mary Helen’s dreams and desires for me had not been there and had not led to the next building blocks.
Dear Mary Helen, you made a difference. Many hurting people around the world were helped because of your sacrifice.
Her sacrifice, in this instance, was for me. My brother Chuck and my sister Billie could tell similar stories of Mary Helen’s sacrificial love.
But, we should not have been surprised. The Bible verse she adopted early on as her “life verse” foretold of such qualities. It’s Romans 12: 1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Mary Helen, you modeled Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love by your life. May we as your family, with all humility, follow your example.
Mom, for Billie, Chuck and myself, we love you, we will miss you, but we now release you fully to your Heavenly Father’s kingdom. We know you are already there but probably concerned about arrangements for our trip: where will we stay, will we be safe? Mom, as your best friend, Carole, said to you many times over the past year: “Don’t worry.” “Every thing will work out OK.”
“Say ‘hello’ to Dad, Donald, Waldo and Treva for us. We’re gonna meet you all in Heaven.”