Gonna take a sentimental journey, Gonna set my heart at ease, Gonna make a sentimental journey, To renew old memories. Who remembers this famous song sung by Doris Day with the Les Brown Band back in 1944? I’m sure many of us do:
In these last few months, I have been taking my own sentimental/emotional journey with my mom, Rose Marie Borrelli, the Co-Founder of Freedom House, given the many events we’ve recently gone through. My sweet, loving and funny mother, who is now 86 years old, is someone that has brought life to me—literally. Yet I’m really talking about a spiritual legacy. Moreover, she has released life to so many others in these last 50 years of ministry—loving, serving, teaching, mentoring, and ministering to hundreds and even thousands. There is a rich legacy she is leaving me, my family, and so many she brought into the family of God. Note: No, she has not gone home to glory!!! Indeed she was close to death, more than once these last few months. These are my sentimental memories that have surfaced, due to my mother’s serious health issues, that I want to share with you. Many emotions, memories, and thoughts bubble up to the surface for all of us when a loved one is hurting, suffering, and maybe even coming to the end of their life.
With this season in her life, as well as my life and my family’s, I have begun to ponder more deeply many thoughts, questions, and memories about life—past, present and the future. Join me on my sentimental journey as I share our memories. I hope you will be blessed and encouraged, and also laugh and cry along with me.
This began as my mother and I commenced talking about the legacy she will be leaving behind. Her legacy is not of monetary worth. It’s a value that goes beyond anything riches can buy or hope to buy. She is leaving a spiritual generation that will grow on and on into the future—a heritage of eternal life. Funny thing about a legacy or a heritage: we will ALL leave one! The real question is “What type of legacy will we leave?”
Proverbs 13:22 “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” I deeply believe that is what my mother has done; she has and is leaving a legacy that is going beyond just me, her natural daughter. Here are some tidbits that I have read about a legacy, defined in contrast to our reputation so we don’t confuse the two:
- Your reputation is who you are supposed to be; your legacy is who you are.
- Your reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; your legacy is what you leave behind when you go.
- A reputation is made in a moment; a legacy is built in a lifetime.
- A single newspaper report or careless gossip can give you your reputation; but a life of toil gives you your legacy.
- Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; legacy is what your children will live with for the rest of their lives.
But you – keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant. You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that is left now is the shouting – God’ applause! 2 Timothy 4:5-7 (The Message)
These powerful and unforgettable words from Paul, were made about his legacy as he pondered the end of his life: faithfulness, fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith. From a front row seat on my mom’s life, I can personally attest this is what she has been doing and is continuing to do. My mother, Rose Marie, too, has fought the good fight through many trials and tribulations, through the good and the hard times, the betrayals, and through her reputation being smeared because of her radical love for Jesus. Further like Paul, she has kept the faith in all the places in her family, her children, her health when cancer tried to take her life (20 years ago), her ministry, and in her home and for others she has led to the Lord and has nurtured and disciplined. I wholeheartedly believe when my mother is ready, and when God invites her to her eternal resting place – “His Place” – she is going to give out a loud shout . . . “I’m ready Lord! Here I come!” What she will hear is a thunderous roar of applause, God’s applause saying, “Yes, Rose Marie, is coming home to My place.”
Her legacy has been built over a lifetime of choices. We all are given these same opportunities to make choices on a daily basis. Again, the important question to ask ourselves is: “Are we making the right choices that will leave a legacy of standing in faithfulness and fighting the good fight of faith, and are we going to finish the race well?”
During these months as my mom was convalescing, we had lots of talks, and lots of sharing, really nothing new for us, but it felt new because of her state of health and thinking this may be the time the Lord is really calling her home. Getting things in order for her during this time, I found a big beautiful box filled with so many treasures: love letters from the 1940’s from my grandparents, letters from my mother and father when they were dating and through their marriage, and letters that my brothers and myself wrote my parents through our teen-age years. What a treasure trove of sentimental memories! In addition, there were Valentine cards from my dad to my mom and a beautiful fall, brown leaf that is perfectly in tack that my dad picked up to give my mom. And if that were not enough, I found my mom’s love poems for my dad. Sentimental memories, warm feelings, and cascading emotions where invading our hearts and bodies as I read these letters out loud for 4 hours to my mother! And I hadn’t even covered everything that was in the box!
I actually want to share some with you. Like I said, this is my sentimental journey during these last few months.
1945 – From my Maternal Grandfather, Willie, to my Maternal Grandmother, Rose
Dear Rose (my mom’s mother),
I am writing this letter from the guardhouse. Now take it easy! I am in the guardhouse not because I am a bad boy, but because I am on guard duty. Now do you feel better? Now, sweetheart, I have to go on guard in a few minutes—2 hours on and 4 off for 24 hours, so I will close with love to all. Daddy. P.S. Happy Birthday Rose Marie, with love and kisses.
Today is Sunday and all on my own with nothing to do but think of you and I sure do plenty of that. Rose I was dreaming of you last night. Rose, it was so nice of the kids to write to me. I was so happy that it brought tears to my eyes. Rose you just can’t believe how much I miss all of you.
Dear Rose, I got two letters from you today and did they make me feel good. I wonder if the love bug bit you, but I love it so go right ahead. Rose, I hope that your dream comes true. If it does, then I will whisper soft and sweet I love you truly. My heart grows strong for you. I will be thinking of you when I look at the stars above. They will be the spark that fixes my heart and keeps the love light burning for you. I am going over and mail this letter then go to the PX and get a few beers and think of you some more. That is the only thing I like to do. Give all my love to the kids and a big kiss. Will see you in my dreams. Love, Willie
So many letters from my maternal grandfather and grandmother! When I hold them, read them, feel the paper, see my grandparents handwriting, see the ink blots, it all profoundly and deeply moves me.
A poem from my Mom, Rose Marie, to my Dad, James – March, 1954:
The Borrelli Ship
You are the captain of “our ship”
The skipper with a smile.
And I am just your “first-class mate”
Who’ll make your life worthwhile.
The voyage that our ship will make
Across the stormy sea
May be a mass of cruel waves
But that’s not frightening me.
As long as you will master
The sail at any rate,
I’m confident that I can be
Your ever-loving mate.
Together… hand in hand we’ll stand
Upon the deck of life.
When you are my “Captain” husband
And I … your first-class wife.
Let’s leave the world behind us
And sail across the sea.
Let’s be together always
Alone … just you and me.
Love Notes from my Mom, Rose Marie, to my Dad, James – 1954:
I’ve been in prison all day because the thing I longed for most I was barred from—your kisses. Love, Ro
Love Notes from my dad, James, to my mom, Rose Marie – 1954:
A Valentine Message to Rose Marie, I love you—just three little words, and yet, how much they hold of dreams from deep within my heart. Of happiness untold, of many cherished hopes and plans for both of us to share . . .
I love you, Jimmy
Darling, Honey, Sweetheart,
These leaves (perfectly preserved) come from the country. One of them means that I am happy that I met you and others mean that I am happy I married you.
I love you, JB
Dear Rose Marie,
You’ll always be part of me, Sweetheart. The love that is ours will keep forever and ever.
To have these precious, romantic treasures has allowed me to journey back in time with my grandparents and parents—to be able to feel the love, joy, excitement, romance, and wonder of their beginning years. Also, included in the box were several letters from them covering their times of great struggle, pain, and hardships. These were words of anguish, but even in that, there was bittersweet beauty because they were so real with their losses, their hurts and genuine pain, which was expressed as well as confessed.
What can we say about memories as we all have them? Memories are a gift, even the difficult ones, because they lead us to a place of searching, seeking, and surrendering to our Lord for His healing and sovereignty. Our memories allow us to see our life wholly from 360o, to look back and to claim—from a more seasoned perspective—that what seemed good was actually amazingly good. You would not be the person you have become, with the values you hold and the qualities you emanate without these amazing, wonderful, loving people in your past—your grandparents and parents. Maybe they were like angels. (Maybe there were angels!?)
We can also say that memory is a gift. Memory gives us a window to God. God is timeless. Our memory gives us a glimpse into how God sees and knows us, how God has loved us all along. Memory makes us whole because life actually is not linear. Life encircles us. God’s gift of life encircles us, and we participate in that circle with the gift of our memories. We can draw from our memories the gift of gratitude. Savor your memories; pray with gratitude for the amazing, even miraculous goodness of your life, stretching back to your own childhood.
THE GIFT OF REDEMPTION
Lastly, draw from your memories the gift of redemption. There may well be things in your past that you wish were otherwise: things said or not said and things done or left undone. Some of the regret may have been your own doing; some of the regret may be at hands of others, and it may be saddening or maddening. Redemption is reclaiming a memory. Redemption is clearly remembering what was not good, not right, and yet acknowledging, where it’s possible, that what was your breaking may actually have become your making. Where you find yourself now has most likely come out of the best of times and the worst of times in your own life. It is a huge grace to reclaim memories, especially those which may have been locked up in old closets of your heart and mind, locked up in that attic with letters of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The gift of redemption draws from the treasury of our own memories, claiming the good that has even come out of the bad. This certainly confirms God’s Word in Romans 8:28 and Joel 2:25.
I pray that you may be open to those locked-up places in your memory. God just may want to give you the gift of redemption in those hidden places of your past.
I pray that each one of you may also take your sentimental journey into your memory bank and ask the Lord to release those times that brought great joy, a smile to your face, or a filling of warmth in your heart. We sometimes focus on all the hurtful, painful, and awful memories but through my own healing journey, the Lord prompted me to be praying for the good memories that I had forgotten and/or were lost in the hurtful ones that created some bad fruit in my life. This is moving to and living out of the resurrection side of the Cross.
God is good—He is good ALL the time! When we pray and seek His heart to show us the good in our lives, He is eager, quick, and ready to release those places and times of the good things that took place: the special neighbor, the teacher who took time to explain, the Aunt who just loved to bake our favorite cookies, the grandmother who would love up on us and gave the best hugs, and those birthdays where we received exactly what we had hoped for. My friends, ask the Lord to release those times of memories and celebrate those events with thanksgiving and gratefulness. Who knows? You may come into more happy memories of the past and, therefore, become more joyous in the present.
Thank you for joining me on my sentimental journey—my journey home—to my roots, my heritage! The last stanza of that famous song rings true: Never thought my heart could be so ‘yearny,’ Why did I decide to roam? Gotta take that sentimental journey, Sentimental journey home. Yes, we all roam from our family of origin, but especially from our Heavenly Father. As our thoughts of the legacy we are leaving draws us home, let’s remember that Father God also draws us to Himself with His redeeming love. He is able to make all things new in our earthly families and able to redeem our tattered legacy, no matter what stage of life we are in. Finally, as described in John 14:1-3, our ultimate Heavenly Home, our true heritage, is being prepared especially for us!
Remember, my dear ones, God is a God of mercy and His mercy is always there—ready and able—and mercy always triumphs over judgment.
Father, release that merciful heart that is so big within You and pour it over each one so that they can have remembrances of Your mercy, Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your steadfastness, and Your countless ways of love and mercy even in the midst of the hard times.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
– Mari Anne Andersen
Write Mari Anne with any thoughts, questions or comments you may have: firstname.lastname@example.org