Thursday, August 12, 2010


For many of you, Rene was a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a coworker, a mentor...To be she was "ney", my Ney. As I sat down to pen my thoughts about how she impacted me as a mom, I thought about the way in which she embodied the fruits of the Spirit, and the ways in which she demonstrated them to me throughout our relationship. I saw goodness in her throughout her life, often demonstrated in subtle ways, when no one was looking. She made a choice to bring goodness into her actions, her insights, her heart...
Peace and Patience: Rene adopted me even before she walked down the isle with my dad. She was a warm beacon in my life from very early on. I was 13 years old and was immediately struck by how easy it was to talk with her, or just be near her. We started our relationship out slowly, casually getting to know each other, sharing light conversations during our visits. We moved carefully at the beginning, aware that this connection was important and needed to be approached with caution. Rene was patient with this shy teenager who had not yet found her voice, and spent a great deal of time trying to be invisible and blend in with the crowd. She worked patiently to disarm the layers of armor that guarded my adolescent heart, through hours of conversations over chicken casserole and warm chocolate chip cookies. She knew she was Dad’s “other woman”, and courted a cordial friendship at first, waiting as we rounded the bases of relationship building from pensive understanding to mutual respect.
Kindness and Joy: Over time (not that it was difficult) Rene quietly and confidently won the teenage girl over through her loving and consistent displays of affection. She was present. Always present. She showed up whenever I needed her and even when I did not realize I needed her, ready to not only participate, but lead with energy and a joyful spirit! Youth group gatherings, scavenger hunt birthdays, high school graduation, Christmas craft-making, weekend dates to watch Hello Dolly or Mary Poppins for the 10-Millionth time. She even asked me to be in her wedding, after my Dad and I proposed to her together (Dad on one knee and teenager sitting by nervously hoping to hear, “yes!”). She was always on time, and she always came to me with a smile on her face which said, “At this moment, you are the most important person to me in the world”!  She had a way of extending this feeling to whomever she was focused on, in the moment. She paid attention to the details, wanting to know about the latest boy, or the latest life aspiration. She always remembered what I had to say, and more importantly, always showed me that cared and respected my voice. Mutual respect blossomed to love.
Temperance:  I didn’t realize at the time, but Rene worked her quiet magic to help me find not only my voice, but to find my potential. She continuously encouraged me to speak my mind, to shout my mind if necessary, to pursue my dreams, to experience whatever aspects of life interested me. Rene had her fare share of adventures, but her heart was always with her home, her parent’s home, and her family. But she respected my “gypsy-like heart”, and helped me board planes to go live in England and Guatemala, never doubting my desire to see the world or experience adventures. She gave me the confidence to be a courageous woman no matter the situation I face, to take risks and enjoy making mistakes. While perhaps grimacing at over zealous young-adult decision making, hoping that the messes from poor choices wouldn’t take too long to clean up, “ney” conveyed to me every day that she never my intentions. She gave me the freedom to make my own choices, and respected those choices right or wrong. She told me that everything and everyone was on an even playing field, and I had one shot to make a move! Oh, and she also always taught me to eat dessert first! Love turned to deep love.
Love: Some of those choices lead me to major life milestones like marriage to Jay, a home purchase, job changes, and the birth of my children Addison and Cooper. Through each of these milestones, Rene has been both a beacon of wisdom and guidance, and a sounding board to find clarity as we made major life decisions, or struggled through the stages of managing the daily mayhem. As Jay and I both sprouted “parent” instincts and skills, I noticed too that both Rene and Dad were sprouting their own grandparent wings. Rene was ever present, delighting in the mundane moments of poopy diapers and organic baby carrots. She held those babies and kissed them until they were moldy! She would lay on the floor to play trains and cars with Cooper, or allow Addison to drool down her face as she laughed. She also developed a special bod with Jay, two kindred spirits who were destined for friendship! She dug in. All in. That’s the thing about Rene. She was all in, all the time. She loved us with a fierceness that I now find so difficult to put into words. To her, it was the whole package that made us perfect. The good qualities, and the not so good qualities combined are what make each of us whole and she wanted it all. This is the ultimate life lesson that I hope to teach my children. This is the quality that embodies Rene- Love unconditionally. Deep love grew to passionate love.

Faithfulness and Meekness: Rene was exactly what you saw and heard on a consistent basis. She loves her family with fervor and passion, loves her friends with loyalty and respect, and made all who knew her feel beloved and special. She was faithful to each of us until her final breath, reaching out from her bed to nurture our broken hearts in spite of her failing health. My favorite moments with her were spent once or twice a week in her living room when we managed to escape the others and could sit quietly and talk about whatever was on our hearts that day. Sometimes we reflected on the silliness of our spouses or a new developmental stage for Addi or Coop, or how much we appreciate our family, other times we needed to vent about something that was troubling or vexing.  I always walked away feeling filled up with Rene. I knew that she would walk with me until I next saw or talked to her. The relationship that started out so sweetly as a pensive understanding grew to the love of a mother and a daughter. It is deep, passionate, respectful, humble, faithful and understanding love between two bossy and courageous women. She blossomed into the mother that she had hoped to be, and the mother that I had dreamed to have. I would like to hope that I in turn, through her teachings, blossomed into the daughter that filled her spirit with the love that she deserved. We had the amazing gift of being allowed to choose each other as mother and daughter, which made the bond stronger than I could ever have hoped it to be. We fell in love, as only a mother and child do and I will be forever grateful for my time here on earth with my dear “Ney”.
Be good to yourselves and try to make choices in your life than reflect the fruits of the Spirit the way that Rene so easily did. Choose love and remember to dig in…all in.


  1. Kristen,
    Thank you for sharing your love for Rene with all of us last night. It was brave of you to stand up in front of that packed church and pay tribute to Rene, in the midst of this highly emotional time for you and your family. Your words were heartfelt, moving, and a call-to-action to all of us to walk in Rene's footsteps. The enthusiasm with which she lived life was remarkable, and inspiring. This life is too precious- and too short- to not "dig in, be all in." Thank you for the loving reminder to let Rene's life be a model for our own. She was a dear coworker at ND and a dear friend- I'm so blessed to have known her.

    WIth love,
    MIchelle Stewart

  2. This couldn't be more perfect and without a doubt Rene heard your words loud and clear with a big smile on her face.


  3. It was beautiful! You are beautiful! You were the best daughter Rene could have had...I don't think she would have wanted it any other way. Thank you for sharing a bit of your special love with us. Love you much!

  4. I am so proud of you. That could not have been easy standing up in front of all of us at Rene's memorial service. I loved your tribute to Rene. She loved you very much and I know she would have so proud of you, too.

  5. Beautifully stated and written. Thank you for capturing and expressing Rene's true essence.