Idell… and Becoming a Witness (Part 4 of 4)

Once I was baptized, Idell did not abandon me just because our Bible Study was over. She remained my friend and helped me through all the hurdles to come.

Witnesses do not celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter. And I had previously been a big celebrator. I even had a Christmas wedding and always insisted on making all of my Xmas gifts for others myself. This required that I start on those projects by August to have everything complete by mid-December. I had loved Christmas so much that Bill and I held an open house every Christmas Eve for everyone we knew. It took me days to prepare for and often lasted all night and into the next morning. For Bill’s sake, I continued to do this.

The other thing Witnesses do – much to public horror – is go door to door in the ministry work. It is what we are known for. And hated for. And made fun of for. And I did NOT want to do this one bit. Nada, nada, nada.Alligator

Never mind that I myself had become a Witness due to Idell being faithful in this door to door work… I wanted no part of it.

But I was shamed into it for the very same reason. Yes, many will reject us at their doors… but there are also those out there like me who would respond if given the right chance. And that means eternal life – no small thing. So how can you not do it?

Well, I could still certainly not do it – happily – but Idell decided to train me. She would pick me up and we would go “work” a couple streets. This is what we call “going in service.” And I hated every minute of it.

The two of us would be walking up a sidewalk to a front door and I would be looking at the ground with dread. “I’m gonna throw up,” I would say.

Idell would completely ignore me.

Knock… knock came the sound as Idell firmly announced her arrival at the door.

“Please don’t answer,” I would think loudly. “Please, don’t be home!”

Sometimes they were and sometimes they weren’t. Never phased Idell a bit. If no one was home we pushed forward. If they were, she would meet their every objection with a kind answer and leave them with a scripture to consider. I was amazed at her prowess in doing this. I was also floored at her consistency in service.

I knew Idell for 40 years. As Witnesses, we turn in our service time to the congregation elders for a record each month. In those 40 years, I’m willing to speculate that Idell never had an inactive month in her life. And I’m sure her active record goes back to when she was a child.

Here’s the thing… I am a “spiritual child” of Idell. But I am not the only one. She had her own three biological children… Jim, Lisa and Laura. And she birthed many a spiritual child in the years after that. I don’t think we could even count how many. I just know she became my real mother 40 years ago and my life – and my children’s lives – have never been the same.

Now I need to digress once more.

When I first met Idell, her youngest child, Laura, was still at home but engaged to be married. Soon Laura was off on her own and I asked Idell how it was to have an empty nest.

“When you have such a joyful child as Laura,” she replied, “the house becomes very quiet. In fact, it is like 10 clowns died and left you alone.” I was touched by this sentiment but immediately my own babes started to howl and I came back to my own reality. Once again, I understood what Idell had just said but I couldn’t really relate. I was too absorbed in my own life but I really grew to love Idell as a mother.

I also became fast friends with Laura. I would ask her the things I was afraid to say to Idell and she would always answer me truthfully. Taking my toddlers and newborn infant to the Kingdom Hall was a challenge. Witnesses don’t stash their kids in a nursery – they are trained from infancy to be a respectful part of the congregation. Laura told me that as a child she would sit beside her mother, Idell, and play with her long, thin fingers. Idell would allow this for just so long until Laura was told to turn her attention back to finding the mentioned scriptures in her own bible and follow along. Like I said, Idell never wavered… even when it came to her own children.

Because of Idell, I found my spiritual home and family. With her help I was able to raise 3 children “in the truth” – which is what we call our faith among ourselves. And so far, I’ve only talked about our spiritual connections, but there was so much more…

And you know what? Now that I’m older I am much like my Aunt Vera. I’m afraid of running out of toilet paper so I stock up. And my hair sometimes takes on a strange shade much like my Aunt Doots. It’s just the way things go, I guess.

Meanwhile, Idell was always a style maven. She was a master interior decorator and extremely accomplished seamstress. She had always sewn beautiful clothing and home accessories. Idell had exquisite taste and educated herself about decorating and fabrics and style. Oh the things she taught me!

I had a natural bent towards the arts but I wasn’t very educated. Idell took me under her wing and opened the world to me. Polyester was all the rage back in the seventies, but Idell would have nothing to do with it. She took me to the fabric store and showed me the difference between real cotton, real linen and even silk. She had me run wool fabrics between my hands to get the feel of them. She showed me how to make Roman Shades before anyone else even knew what they were. I made them for every room in my house and my friends and family were amazed.

One time I was looking at clothing patterns with Idell. She was very fond of Vogue – the most stylish but also the most difficult – and she pointed out to me that women began to lose their figures when A-line dresses were current. She much preferred fitted skirts and belted pants that remind a woman when they are getting a bit tight in the waist. Those A-line garments could hide a lot of sins and that didn’t keep a woman accountable. I remember thinking this theory was a bit “out there” but looking back, I think she was brilliant to point it out. Just the sort of inside knowledge a smart mama passes on to her daughter!

Idell taught me that perennials are the basis of any garden. Get those established and your gardening will be a breeze. She helped me pick out trees that would grow in my back yard as a foundation planting.

When it came to food, Idell was a magician. She despised artificial foods and encouraged me to buy fresh fruits and vegetables – even though I didn’t know what many of them were. She took me to the co-op and introduced me to whole wheat products, raw cheeses, yogurt and more. One time I came home with a bunch of packaged goods and laid them out on the counter. My husband came in, took a look around and said, “What the h*ll are WW Elbows?” Of course that is a whole wheat pasta in traditional elbow shape, but when I relayed that comment to Idell later, she laughed so hard she couldn’t speak. And every time it came up afterwards, we laughed again.

As the years went by, Idell and her husband moved to Florida. I was a bit crushed when she left, but in true Idell style, she had me down to visit. She found out I was depressed and immediately had me book a flight to come and stay with her. This was a rare treat for me and it was very therapeutic. She took me to fabric stores, antique stores, the kingdom hall, out in service and we even went to Ybor City and had wine with lunch! I was so refreshed when I went back home I was almost a different person.

Idell just had a way of opening the whole world to you because she could read you like a book and give advice like the most skilled therapist in the world. She was so interested in people that she had tons of friends. And if you were around, she would say, “Oh, you must meet so-and-so!” And she would make a couple calls and get you together. Soon you were talking intimately with someone you could connect with because you were on the same wavelength. Idell was a “friend-matchmaker” because she not only cared… she did something about it.

Later, when some hard times came in my life, the phone would ring and it would be Idell on the other end. She was comforting and spiritual in the kindest way. And I always felt like I could trust every word she said. This was the woman who had taught me the most important things in my life and now she was reinforcing them. She acknowledged my hard times – without ever mentioning her own – and kicked me in the butt to keep going.

Idell’s devotion to Jehovah and bible principles were non-negotiable. She was what I would call a War Horse – someone who always went forward with conviction, tempered with empathy, but never wavering from the mission at hand. It wasn’t that she was fearless (although she was in many ways) – it was that she did her best to be obedient.

When I visited her in Florida a couple times she drove us everywhere. She knew the kitschiest restaurants, the best shops for everything and no matter how many hours a day we entertained ourselves, when it was meeting time, we went. This often involved her having to cross Dale Mabry Highway at the busiest times. It was a bit scary to me and she noticed. We sat there with headlights careening everywhere and she said, “Don’t worry. They come down this road like bats out of glory, but we’ll make it.” And we did. And I stole that phrase from her… “bats out of glory!” And I get a laugh almost every time I say it!

How do you thank an incomparable friend like that?

You can’t. You simply have to emulate them and be a friend like that to others in your own life. And Idell has left a rich legacy to live up to.

I recognize that Idell’s close family who had to live with her these past few years while her health deteriorated had some challenges to face. I can see the best of Idell because that’s all I ever had to deal with. But we are all annoying to someone and I’m sure even Idell tested the patience of some of her loved ones. But they stood the test until the very end and she was loved for the dear, faithful, generous person she was.

Idell was my true mother. My heart aches for her recent passing. And all I can do is take comfort in what she taught me…

Revelation 21:3, 4 talks about a time in the future when we will all be reunited on this earth. It is my favorite scripture I learned from Idell…

With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

Idell will be back. Her family will welcome her and then her other children, including me, will get to kiss her with tears of joy, knowing that pain and death will be no more.

Thank you, Idell, my dear mother, for making my life worth living. I love you always.

Idell Boice ~ 9.3.1925 to 6.29.2015

Idell drawing 2a

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. scoopcoop69
    Jul 03, 2015 @ 20:43:42

    Starr, what a lovely piece of your dear, dear “mother”. What would we do without those who make such a wonderful impression upon us. I loved reading the posts and the sketch is amazing! It is so funny the things we remember…that may seem so insignificant, like hair color, but those are the pieces that make life so interesting. Our spiritual life is the most important and meaningful part of our lives and make us who we are. May you find tremendous comfort in how she affected your life. And I also loved seeing the twins!! I do need to see them all grown up now, ya know! 😉


  2. thesketchylife
    Jul 04, 2015 @ 10:41:12

    Thanks, Patti. I so appreciate your comments. And what a lovely new friend you are to me! I know already that you are a spiritual person as well and that is a nice connection. Hmmm… I’ll have to get a photo of my boys all grown up at some point! Talk to you soon, my dear!


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