Extraordinary: surpassing what is usual, typical, or expected.
Extraordinary: noteworthy, remarkable, exceptional.
Extraordinary: Vonna Leckband, Julie’s mom, my mother-in-law.
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I only called her Mom, so I won’t part from that now. Mom’s obituary, lovingly composed by her oldest daughter, Laurie, displays a resume replete with accomplishments, filled with variety, spanning jobs, to joys, to volunteer work, to dedication to her family: http://www.waltonrostefuneralhome.com/obituary/vona-leckband
No more proof needed that Mom was extraordinary, still I offer more. The auditorium, where she volunteered, posted this gratitude-filled tribute on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/memorialauditorium/
I took this photo collage from their post:
Leaving no proof untold, I offer my favorite in bolstering my claim that Mom was extraordinary. Over the nineteen years I knew her, Mom and I enjoyed many long conversations. Loving to learn family histories, I often asked about hers.
I knew from the start that Mom was Dad’s second wife. Sadly, his first wife, Patty, died of Multiple Sclerosis while in her twenties, leaving him with two young children. He was around thirty, and Mom twenty, when they met and soon married.
“Mom, you were so young,” I began. “Here was this man, with two young children. Did you hesitate at all to date him? And marry him? You took on so much.”
She thought for a moment. Her face told me she was pondering those days. “No,” she replied. “I loved Larry. I wanted to marry him. I loved Laurie and Mark.” She laughed. “I was young. I probably had no idea what I was getting into.”
Now, we both laughed. And, I thought, “She knew exactly what she was getting into. That’s who she is.”
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Mom died on July 3. On May 17, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. After four weeks in ICU and a week in acute care, she was in her second week at a rehab center when another stroke on July 2 was too much for her.
When Mom suffered the initial stroke, that her family rallied to her showed the fruit from the family vine she cultivated.
Julie’s immediate reaction was that we had to go, despite the pandemic. That their county in Northwest Iowa has yet to suffer a COVID-19 death, we were more concerned that we might take it there than that we might pick it up. We had been taking great care since March, and would continue to do so as we made the 675-mile drive.
That Julie had been doing her job from home since March meant she could do it at her folks’ place, a blessing in the midst of the virus curse. We stayed a week, then returned to Indianapolis. On May 30, Julie returned to Iowa. Her sisters have been there, too: her two older sisters, Laurie and Sheri, who live near the Twin Cities, and the youngest, Amber, who lives across the road from the folks. As Mom and Dad always hunkered down for their kids, now the kids hunkered down for their parents.
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I spoke to Mom before I ever spoke with Julie.
Julie and I met in 2000 when she sent me a letter in response to my magazine article. Snail mail turned to email. When, in 2001, we both were divorcing, our occasional emails turned to commiserating with each other, which resulted in our really getting to know each other, from which deep affection sprouted.
These were the days before social media, so we couldn’t easily connect online. When I told Julie I wanted to talk, she hesitated. Finally, I could wait no more. I knew she’d told her folks about me, so I found their phone number.
Mom answered. I said, “If I told you my name is Greg Eilers, from Port Hope, Michigan, would you know who I was talking about?” She reacted with laughter. “Yes, I know who you are. Julie’s told me all about you.” We were off and running.
When I whisked Julie from Iowa to Michigan, the plume in my cap was that I was a Lutheran minister. These folks are generations-deep Lutherans, with a number of pastors in the family tree. Even so, Mom loved to poke me that I stole her daughter far away to Michigan.
I had posted my sermons on my congregation’s website, and she loved reading them. In 2014, when my health forced me into an early retirement, Mom encouraged me to get back into the ministry, even if I had to start my own congregation.
My health issue was as unique as it was severe. Over the five years I dealt with it, Mom’s love for Julie and me shone bright and constant.
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When I was young, I saw this poster at work: Your influence is either positive or negative. It’s never neutral. Since Mom died, I noticed something that was always before me, but had not yet landed: her four daughters are just like her. Her influence is reflected in them … and it’s all positive.
- Mom was hard-working. So is each daughter.
- Mom was dedicated to family. So is each daughter.
- Mom was faithful to people who mattered and to things that were important. So is each daughter.
- Mom was smart, wise, and savvy. So is each daughter.
- Mom laughed easily, rolled with the punches, and dug in when things got serious. So does each daughter.
That’s how we continue to live on in this world, after we’ve passed. Our deceased loved ones live on far more than in our hearts and memories. They live on in how we live on.
For her eternal life, we are thankful that Mom lives on with the Lord Jesus, who called her by name and kept her safe in His love.
Because Mom lived the way the Lord created us to live—love others as you want them to love you—her presence in this world will continue to be unmistakable. Mom lives on in her children and grandchildren.
Her life has been planted in them. Fed and nurtured in them. Has blossomed and bears fruit in them.
As all her seventy-seven years Vonna Leckband was a blessing to many—to family, to friends, to community, to church … to keeping the always-on-the-go Larry Leckband in line—she will be a blessing for generations to come.
The fruits of Mom’s labors will continue to taste sweet, because of the extraordinary life she lived.
Thank you, Mom. I love you.