The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the LORD,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
– Psalm 92:12-15
Irma was nearly one hundred years old when she left this earth.
She had been elderly as long as I had known her. She was widowed at a young age and raised her children alone while she earned a living for them. She lived in the big house she was raised in until advanced age prevented her from running up and down the stairs.
She walked to work across town because she wanted to, not because she didn’t have a car. She was a member of a local prayer group and prayed fervently for others. She believed every word of the Bible and lived like it. Every Sunday during growing season, the altar was graced with flowers from her garden. She refused to take naps and survived a bout with cancer in her eighties.
One of my favorite photos of her was taken at a local riverbank where she fished with my mother. Even in the photo there is nothing static about her. She is smiling, pulling at the fishing rod and reeling in the line in one fluid motion. She was never ashamed of her white hair, her laugh lines, or her faith.
She lived well and with the perfect balance of joy and dignity.
Irma was the embodiment of a person planted in the house of the Lord.
Like a tree, she had set her roots deep in the soil to find the water of life. Her roots secured her against the gales of foul weather and connected her to the refreshment of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever I read Psalm 92, I think of Irma. She was a mature tree, still full of sap. There was no deadness in her. She flourished, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit was evident in her walk. She used to laugh about being green and sappy in her old age. Somehow, she made it look awesome.
In her life, Irma had suffered much. But instead of letting her wounds create bitterness, she trusted in the Lord to do the secret work of healing while she simply walked in grace. As I think back on the honor of knowing such a servant of the Most High, just four words come to mind:
Green. Sappy. Not ashamed.