My mother, Virginia Arends, 92, went peacefully to Heaven on Monday, June 21, 2021. This is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral.
If you knew my mother well, you will not be surprised to learn she tried many, many times to persuade me to write her eulogy so she could read and edit and approve it. I refused…one of the very few times (I could count on one hand) I flatly resisted her will. That did not stop her from making suggestions throughout the years—“you’ve got to put that in my eulogy”—some of which will be included today.
Virginia Arends was a force of nature, a stunning woman who literally wore rose-colored glasses, or sometimes rose on the bottom, blue on the top. She and my father Carl were truly a dynamic duo, who both worked tirelessly, enjoyed simple pleasures, and had such a sense of humor, it was often like living with Abbott and Costello, or Lucy and Ricky. In fact, my father often called my mother “Lucy.” Not only did that name fither, but she embraced it. She also agreed with her friends who called my father “Saint Carl” for his inexhaustible patience with her.
They had a number of inside jokes. Two of these “Carl-isms” my mother repeatedendlessly,bursting into laughter every single time. When they were engaged in a difference of opinion, and my father finally gave up trying to reason with her, he would turn to me, and say, “Holly, tell your mama…[whatever].” But her all-time favorite story was: After a complicated stating of her position on some matter, she asked, “Carl, do you understand what I mean?” He said, “Yes, and that’s what scares me.”
My mother brought me up with good books, good music, and good food. I clearly remember, at the tender age of four, she would call me in from playing to spend time with a book. We had an extensive collection of recordings of the great composers, played by such artists as Van Cliburn and Jascha Heifetz. My mother taught me how to recognize symphonies and concertos by title. Some of you, especially if you heard my mother’s repeated warnings about “sugar,” will be surprised to learn she used to make mounds of cookies, divinity, homemade fudge, and date balls at Christmas time.
In every way, she equipped me to have a satisfying and productive life, which meant I learned very early the value of work and discipline. By the age of seven I started piano lessons. By the age of eight or nine, every Saturday I did all the dusting (which she hated), and all our ironing, even my father’s long-sleeved shirts. Though it was always a foregone conclusion I would one day go to college, when I got to high school, my mother insisted I take business courses—typing, shorthand, “business machines,” and bookkeeping (which I barely escaped alive) so that no matter what happened, I could always “get a job.”
By the time I reached adulthood, thanks to my mother, I was in good health, had a good education, an extensive vocabulary, keen sense of humor, could play the piano, could type without looking at the keyboard, and had nice straight teeth.
If my mother played any role in your life, you could also share similar benefits from having known her. Whether you called her Virginia, Mrs. Arends, Miss Virginia, or Nana, you might describe her as intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, hilarious, principled, or compassionate.
We could employ a whole list of adjectives. “Simple” would not be one of them.
Long ago, when she instructed me to start planning her eulogy, I decided on three words, prominent traits of hers which will paint a fairly finished portrait.
Word No. 1.
She was tenacious
About her health.
To say that she ate healthy foods would be an understatement of the severest sort. She took handfuls of vitamins every day, and was always on the outlook for the next great supplement, and once converted, immediately went about trying to convince everyone else to take the same vitamins she did. Among the many health food fads she tried were: growing Kombucha mushrooms in a big glass bowl on top of the refrigerator, growing alfalfa sprouts in the kitchen window, buying, and selling Herbal Life, Sea Silver, Barley Green, and Mona Vie, all of which, of course, I was expected to try.
This was after the Great Juicer Phase, when she would buy fifty pounds of carrots from Farmer’s Market, and fill up half the refrigerator. If you’re wondering if she turned a mild shade of orange on account of the beta carotene, the answer is yes.
We have to admit the plan worked. She was still going to the gym when she was well into her 80’s and we are here today celebrating 92 years of a life well-lived.
She was tenacious
About her hobbies.
She not only tried to improve her physical health, but was always on the lookout for some new hobby to challenge her skill. While I was still a child, she got into paint-by-number and painted several really creepy clowns. Every Friday night she and my father played “42,” a domino game, with Lewis and Rose Kenley.
But her most memorable escapade occurred when a new DJ at our local radio station named Happy Jack Williams arrived in Yoakum County, and offered five-string banjo lessons to the good citizens of Denver City, Texas. You guessed it. Virginia signed up.
And here came the banjo, the banjo case, and all kinds of picks, stored in a Mason jar, as well as recordings of the Dillards (that’s the Darling family of the Andy Griffith show). She tried and tried to master Cripple Creek, but her banjo career was short-lived.
She could sew. She could crochet. She was a devoted yard person. Later, she turned to Sudoku, and could not fill up puzzle books fast enough. She and my father discovered and mastered a game called “Marbles,” which is the game “Sorry” combined with a deck of cards.
As with the vitamins, my mother was never content to enjoy these delights without recommending them to everyone she knew and insisting that they try them as well.
Word No. 2
She was generous
With her money.
Both my parents were the most generous people I’ve ever known. If there was a need, they met it. If I were to poll this audience today, and ask how many of you received financial contributions from my parents, either personally, or to your ministry, many of you would raise your hands. My own children would answer yes, because my parents helped each one of them in significant ways at life-changing moments. My mother was a life-long tither to her local church. She gave liberally to missions. She helped her family, her friends. She tried to give me money even when I didn’t need it.
If anyone asked for money, her open hand was out. I tried to warn her not to give money to people on the streets, but that did absolutely no good. She said she gave it in good conscience, and how they spent it was between them and God.
One day in Publix, she spotted what she described as a “pitiful young couple” in the produce section. She approached them and held out a stack of bills. They thanked her, but said, “Ma’am, we’re not homeless.”
She was generous
With her time.
Particularly to her Sunday School class. Virginia Arends never waited till Saturday night to start preparing a Sunday School lesson. From the moment one lesson was delivered, and Sunday lunch was over, she had her Bible and commentaries open to the following week’s lesson, and then spent all week getting ready. She made copious notes, included illustrations, typed each lesson, color-coding the Scripture references in red. Her Sunday School roll was always by the phone. She called her members weekly. She never missed sending each lady a birthday card on time and called to sing Happy Birthday on their big day.
She later spent hours working on programs for the senior citizen’s ministry at Trinity, the Joyful Heirs, arranging speakers, finding jokes for her opening monologues, planning trips, and writing the ever-present newsletter, which I invariably got involved with when she needed to e-mail it to the church office.
Word No. 3
She was zealous
About the Bible.
I can honestly say I’ve never known anyone who loved the Bible as much as my mother did. She started teaching adult ladies in Sunday School when I was only six at First Baptist Church, Denver City, Texas. Her mentor was Sweetie Belle Toler, a lovey, fluffy, gray-haired woman with arthritis so severe, she had to sit in a rocking chair at the back of the church. Every Saturday my mother would put me in the back seat of our 1956 white Ford and we would pick up “Toler.” Then we would drive to Dairy Mart No. 1, and she would buy me a Broil-a-burger No. 2 with Smoke Sauce and a vanilla crème Dr. Pepper.
I would sit in the back seat and listen to these two talk about the Bible. I don’t remember what they said, but I do remember being convinced, even then, that the Bible was absolutely the most important book in the world and was never to be handled carelessly.
She not only studied the Bible, but she also memorized it. She bought stacks of 3 x 5 cards, typed the verse on one side, the reference on the other, and went over and over them every day. She also memorized entire books of the Bible.
We lived in Arlington, and the trips to Trinity Baptist Church on McDuff Ave. and later to Hammond, took a good half hour, ample time for me to sit with the open Bible in my lap, while my mother went over “her verses.”
Later, my father sat down with a tape player and recorded a hefty list of verses, repeating the reference at the beginning and end of each verse, so she could listen to them. Later, we had several CDs made of this recording, which is a treasure in and of itself.
She was zealous
About sharing the Gospel.
From the moment we joined Trinity Baptist Church in 1967 and my mother discovered she was supposed to witness, I was never…and I do mean, never…with her in public that she did not give a Gospel tract to everyone she met. She ordered “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” by the thousands. Anyone within reach got a tract with her home phone number written on front, another practice I was never able to persuade her to stop. If someone called her house, even if it was a wrong number, she would ask them to write down Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9 and 10:13.
My most vivid memory of her passing out tracts was in 2005.
It had long been my mother’s dream to return to Texas and re-visit her roots. So, she and I flew to Lubbock, and rented a car and spent more than a week driving over the flat West Texas plains, locating my great grandparents’ homes, my mother’s childhood home, elementary school, the GA camp where she was saved when she was nine. A stack of “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” went along with us. One day, when we were driving on a two-lane road, literally in the middle of nowhere, my mother spotted a lone farmer out in his cotton field.
He was busy, was a good distance from the fence, and I was driving 55 miles an hour. Nevertheless, she ordered me to stop the car and turn around. I drove back, parked on the side of the road. She shoved a tract in my hand and sent me over to wave him down, which I did.
Who knows? She may very well have met that cotton farmer when she reached Heaven last Monday. No telling how many people already there, welcomed her with thanks for the tract she left on a table, in a public restroom, or a doctor’s office.
Tenacious. Generous. Zealous.
The legacy of Virginia Arends is rich and memorable.
May we follow her example.
Surrender fully to God.
Holly, that was an absolute beautiful tribute to your mother. She was and is a blessing to all who knew her. I will never forget the time she shared the testimony of sending a card to a lady in her class that had stomach surgery. She added a verse reference to the bottom. Instead of Philippians 4:19 she put Philippians 3:19 Whose end. Is destruction, whose God ois their belly… That didn’t go over to well. LOL She used that to emphasize memorizing the reference. How I loved this saint of God. You are truly blessed to call her Mom.
I could hear you reading this and I could picture your mom through the whole thing! What an amazing lady! She was such an encouragement to Paul when he gave his life to the Lord his junior year of high school. Her legacy lives on in his preaching. To God be the glory!
My Sweet Sister in Christ- Holly:
My heart was blessed and motivated by the Heart-Felt Tribute of your Mother Sister Arends!
As I read this Tribute my mind went back to the times of talking/fellow shipping with your Godly parents!
What cherished moments that I am very thankful for.
Your walk/talk has meant a great deal to me!
May Jesus continue to use you for HIS Glory!
Love in Christ,
Byron and Sharon
Holly, well done good and faithful daughter. Your mother would be well pleased and would approve of your memories for her. We would all wish to have such a eulogy from our daughters at the end of our life. I enjoyed reading your mother story thank you. Your friend Frances Adams
I was hoping you would share her eulogy so I can “hear it”. I knew it would be beautiful and perfect, as it was. Even though I have never met your mother, I felt like I got a glimpse into hers and your relationship over these last few months. What an awesome mother and wife she must have been ❤️
I am sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like quite a lady. Though I did not know her personally, I do recollect her name (though from almost forty years past) and the influence that she had. I am glad for you that you have such great memories of her.
What an absolutely beautiful and fitting tribute to your beautiful mother, Holly! I laughed out loud a time or two and “teared up” reading your wonderful words.
Well done!! I know she was smiling while listening to you read it. How proud she is of you!!
Sending virtual hugs your way.
Holly, what a wonderful tribute to your mom. I only had the privilege of knowing her for about a year, during which I attended her Sunday School class, but learned so much from her.
You summed her up so well in your three words, and I had to chuckle about her wanting to edit her eulogy!
As a side note, your comment about the classical recordings made me smile, in particular that you had one (some?) of Van Cliburn’s. I happen to be one of the fortunate ones who saw him in person. I was 11 or 12 years old and my parents got tickets to see him outside of Boston. His hands were so long and beautiful and I was close enough to be able to watch them.
Anyway, this was such a blessing to read about your beautiful momma. I particularly loved your comment about her being a “force of nature”. That sums her up so well. Thank you for the smiles and the blessings of remembering her from our time at Trinity.