Remember Jenny

When someone touches your heart as deeply as Jenny touched mine, you want the world to know her.
Her faith. Her resilience. Her legacy. With no open microphone at her memorial, nor the opportunity to play the hymn she requested, my heart ached to express all Jenny’s life taught me.
Through this letter, written to her precious daughters, I pray you will also remember Jenny.

Dear Girls, I always pray for an awareness of God’s rare treasures in my life. Your mom was such a treasure, reflecting her faith, hope, and love to the Lord like a glittering jewel.

In February of 2008, I woke up one morning with my hands swollen. It felt like I was trying to button a blouse or brush my teeth with gloves on. That same week, your mom woke up feeling fine, but as the day progressed, she noticed numbness in her arms. By the end of the day, she attempted to lift her arm to give your dog a treat, but there was no lift.

She told me she went to bed, and within hours, her arms and legs were heavy. All feeling in her limbs was gone. At this point, it was time to go to the hospital. Within twenty-four hours Jenny was completely paralyzed and needed a respirator to breathe. How does this happen to a 34-year-old mother?

Compared to your mom’s sudden paralysis, my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is minor. She became a quadriplegic. I could still get out of bed.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) spoke volumes to me during those years. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I began praying every day, "Pour out Your sufficient grace upon Jenny! In Jesus name, Amen." Everyone prayed and pleaded with the Lord to heal her body.
She spent time in the hospital, then a rehab center. Your house had to be renovated. Your dad secured a wheelchair-accessible van and lined up 24-hour home-health care.

I too, was experiencing physical challenges, as well as financial and emotional loss. My heart bled. But in my despair, God would bring Jenny to mind.

Thinking of her and the extreme challenges she faced every minute of every day motivated me to get out of bed. When I was tempted to complain, I would stop and remember Jenny. Then, using my own two hands, I would fill a cup with water, take a sip, and give thanks to God for the things I could do.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, the prayers kept rising for you, your whole family, and your mom. From 2008 on, even during my battle with cancer in 2010, I prayed for your mom.

In November of 2012, as I was driving some of my younger kids to school, the radio announcer asked, "Is there someone very important in your life that you are thankful for, and they might not even know it? Let this Thanksgiving be the time to let them know."


I dialed her number. After five years, I was finally going to thank Jenny for getting me out of bed every morning and for helping me fight the good fight of faith. I couldn’t have done it without her.

One morning, I arrived at Jenny’s house about 10:30 and waited at the door for what seemed like an eternity. Finally one of the home-health nurses let me in. She had been blow-drying your mom's hair. It was unimaginable the amount of work required each day to tend to all of her needs.

Except for a few conversations we had at the YWCA and the call I made at Thanksgiving, we still didn’t know each other very well, but she seemed happy to have a visitor.

I brought along my guitar for a time of worship and prayer. We sang. Jenny cried. Her respirator buzzer kept going off because of the extra oxygen needed. We prayed.

Your mom talked, but not without difficulty. She had so much to say. In faith, she said, "He's going to heal me. He told me at the beginning when this first happened. He said to my spirit, "You're going to walk again."

It was year five, and Jenny still believed God was going to heal her. As she spoke, only grace poured out without one ounce of bitterness. "The Lord has let my legs still have muscle tone. They aren't supposed to have that. I'm going to walk again," she said with joyful confidence.

She shared with me her love for Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God. Then she laughed, “Lord, I'm not going anywhere!”

Every three months, I visited. Five years of praying for Jenny knit my heart to hers. Our times together felt like a bit of heaven.

I often wondered what would happen if your family’s insurance ran out for home-health care. When it happened, Jenny found herself in the same hospital she spent many months six years prior.

After finally making contact with her, I went to the hospital. When I opened her door, tears dropped from your mom's eyes. "God's answering prayer,” she whispered. Three weeks in a tiny, grey-green corner of a hospital room, and these are the words she speaks?

I wiped her tears and slid her bangs over her forehead.

Though she whispered, she shared good reports. She talked of your visiting her. She never ceased in praying for your dad.

Your mom was a vessel of hope. She still had faith that God was going to help her walk out of the hospital. Her expectation in God and her strong faith convicted me as I continually struggled with discouragement and complaint.

The Lord put it on my heart to do a Bible study with your mom from The Song of Solomon. “Our King, the Son of Love drew near to us, Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves’ eyes" (Song of Solomon 1:15, KJV).”

As the brokenness inside us cracked open our hungry and thirsty ears, we heard our Shepherd-King's voice say, “My love, look to Me. Hear my words. You are beautiful to Me. I see the Holy Spirit like a dove, alive in all that makes you— you.

We were greatly touched. We heard our Lord say to us, "You are beautiful to Me.”

Our Beloved sang, I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters (2:1, 2 KJV).

Jesus, the Lily among the thorns, knows and sees everything we're going through. The response from the maiden reminded me of your mom's response to all the thorns in her life:

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love (2:3,4 KJV).

When I read the next verses aloud, everything changed:

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come (2:10,11 KJV).”

"Wow!," your mom gasped. She urgently whispered something to me, "My name, Jenny, means, "Fair one." After I read those words again, Jenny said, "God's going to do something amazing real soon.”

That was the last visit I had with your mom. She fell into a coma that night, and a week later, she went to be with Jesus. With more feeling than she’s ever had before, she’s dancing in His presence now.

Please remember: God’s grace is sufficient in life and in death. As He prepared His Fair One to “Come away” with Him, He remained faithful to her. He loves you girls very much, and so do I.

With all my love,

— Toni

Toni Rypkema
is a Children’s Bible and music teacher, writer of a Sing – Grow – Learn Series of Bible songs. She is the mother of eleven children with her husband Mike of 35 years, and they have two wonderful grandchildren.

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