Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Last Gift

If you knew your life was ebbing away how would you spend your last weeks?  A couple of months ago Mary (not her real name) got some awful, deadly news.  She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She knew that outside of a miracle her life on earth wouldn't last much longer.

For years Mary has been a passionate Operation Christmas Child supporter and shoebox packer.  Each year she uses greeting card and calendar pictures to carefully decorate each of the 100 or so boxes she packs.  She plans them and prays over them.

This year her prayer was that she'd complete her boxes before she completed the race of her life.  Mary's daughter came to be with her in mid-November and tried to help her pack those boxes.  Her daughter grew tired, but Mary persisted.

Our shoebox drop-off logs record that Mary brought her 125 boxes to the relay center on November 16th.  Eight days later, on Thanksgiving Day, Mary went to be with Jesus.

She left behind a legacy of not only hundreds of children who have been touched by her shoeboxes but also a supply of collected items destined for future boxes.  Mary's wish was to donate these items so more boxes could be packed and more children blessed.

I had the privilege of being chosen to steward these items.  Mary's daughter predicted we would need a box truck to transport everything.  I had my doubts.  After all, if you're packing 100 or so boxes a much space could the leftovers consume?

My husband and I made the hour drive in our minivan last Saturday.  Mary's daughter wasn't kidding.  She'd moved all the items to the garage so they'd all be together.  We were amazed at the stacks.

We filled our van and promised to return later with a larger vehicle.  On our way home we discussed Mary's legacy and decided this first load should go to a woman in our area about Mary's age who packs several thousand boxes in her home.  It seemed fitting.

So we dropped that first load off in Rose's garage.  Bags of socks and boxes of notebooks and toothbrushes and purses and toy cars and crayons.  Enough to get Rose started on her 2017 boxes.

Over the weekend we made arrangements to borrow a truck and recruited Bob and Myron to volunteer to go with us.  On Monday we made the trip again and hauled everything back to our storage container.

There's still a lot to sort through but I know God has good plans for each item.  Boxes that Mary has already carefully decorated are going to the processing center to be used at the Shoebox Hospital.  Some boxes of coloring books, jump ropes, and stuffed animals are headed to a last-minute packing party in Maryland.  And there will be plenty saved for our 2017 packing party, too.

As I sifted through a box of Mary's shoebox records for the past years--written on scrap envelopes--I saw her legacy carried out as she planned the contents of her boxes...

When she wrote those lists she had no idea how many shoebox packing seasons God would give her. When she bought all the items that filled those boxes she didn't know her time would be shortened.

But Mary was faithful.  She planned and purchased and prayed.  And though her earthly shoebox packing is completed her legacy the hearts of those who knew her and in the hearts of the children who never knew her but owe her so much.

The box pictured above was found in the middle of Mary's shoebox stash.  We're not sure when it was completed but even as she packed it God knew it would be her last.  I'm taking it to the Baltimore Processing Center tomorrow.  I know God has a special girl already picked out to receive it.

What a gift...


  1. My father died of pancreatic cancer earlier this year.This hits home for that reason,as well as the butterfly (on one of her boxes),being a symbol of Resurrection.This is my favourite project.Please pray,as my dad is in God's hands now,that God has mercy on him.Pray for the rest of our family to be delivered,helped,and eternally saved.thank you.

  2. What a beautiful lrgacy! I started packing several years ago, in memory of a young boy. I pray my passion will also live on.
    How appropriate it seems to leave this earth, this passion and return Home on Thanksgiving day.
    Praise God for Mary.