Today was a glorious, yet incredibly sad, day for many homeschooling families in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. A lovely fellow homeschooling family lost its mother. Cheryl Too, age forty-five and mother of four children ranging in age from ten to seventeen, died a few days ago suddenly from a brain aneurysm. I say it was a glorious day because all of us at her funeral knew beyond a shadow of a doubt where Cheryl is spending eternity. It was a sad day for obvious reasons: four sweet children and a wonderful husband are without their mother and wife.
Cheryl’s godly, productive life and her sudden death have caused many people, me included, to think about our own lives—and to desire to do this job of Christian parenting (and marriage) better. And when I think, I have to write. So, here are my inspirations from this amazing mom’s life and death. May you glean from her as I have.
Use our time wisely. My first thought is one that most people think of when they consider someone their own age passing away: we need to number our days. Psalm 90: 12 tells us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” In parenting terms, however, I am more motivated than ever to “number my days.” To make the most of the time I have remaining with our sons at home—and any opportunities that we get to influence, teach, love, and invest in our four grown children. Cheryl was such a good example of using her time wisely with her children. One of the recurring themes from everyone concerning her these past few days has been that “her children were prepared for anything.” They are well-educated (via their parents’ diligent homeschooling), eloquent, servant-minded, loving, character-filled, content, well-adjusted kids. That didn’t just happen. The time Cheryl used wisely to invest in her children was a huge part of their “readiness for anything.”
Have a meek and quiet spirit. I have never been accused of being quiet. I sometimes consider myself meek only when defining the word as “strength under control.” However, Cheryl was the epitome of a meek and quiet spirit—and not because she didn’t say anything or didn’t think her own thoughts. She fulfilled I Peter 3: 4 (“But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”) as she served, loved, taught, reached out, and helped without great fanfare or expectation of acclaim. Her four children are the types of kids that everybody wants—loving to each other, kind, helpful, intelligent, diligent, servant-minded, talented, AND absolutely beautiful! And yet, she never made others feel jealous or inferior as some moms with those types of children might do. This, too, was her meekness coming through in all of her interactions.
Prioritize serving others—and teach our children to serve. On the evening of Cheryl’s death, Cami and Joseph (my daughter and son-in-law) had their hands full with one hundred cognitively disabled adults who didn’t understand why Cheryl was gone. “She’s my friend. She can’t die.” “She loved us. She has to be here.” A little more than a year ago, Cheryl and her family started serving at the One Heart Disability Ministry that Cami and Joseph lead. Specifically, Cheryl led the singing on Thursday evenings during a worship service that is designed just for adults and young adults with disabilities. This fall Cheryl was planning to lead one of the newly-formed clubs, specifically a choir, for these special people. As pastors and family members spoke of Cheryl at the funeral today, the theme was the same: she always reached out and ministered to others. And she taught her children to do the same. Serving at One Heart was a priority for Cheryl and her kids, as were other ministries and opportunities that she participated in throughout her life.
Serve at home first. We have always believed that there are hundreds of principles that can be seen throughout Scriptures. One that we have taught our children over and over, and that is obvious in Cheryl and Heng’s life, is that of serving closest to home first—then branching out. I think that's why Jesus said, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" Acts 1:8 (NKJV). That denotes an order--first closest to you, then farther from home, then all over the world--once you have shown yourself faithful to those closest. This was obvious in Cheryl’s life in the way she ministered in her home tirelessly before branching out to what we sometimes consider “great” things. And then, when she did branch out, it was to her own community—and to the lowly, whom many people do not want to serve. Of course, she had served in her church for years and years through singing, teaching, and gifts of helps. Also, pertinent to this discussion of serving those closest to us first, it was amazing to hear her three siblings’ testimonies of how Cheryl had been instrumental in each of them coming to Christ as adults. That is definitely “receiving power to be witnesses” at home first!
Do things well. We have had the privilege of having the Too children in Training for Triumph’s cottage classes in the past few years. In teaching their children speech, debate, writing, and sign language, it is obvious to us that Cheryl did what she did very well. Specifically this year, I have loved editing her son Jeremy’s papers in writing class. As he completes the Checklist Challenge (the revising and editing system in our books), I can tell where Cheryl’s teaching touch was present—helping him find the perfect verb, replacing redundancy with synonyms, writing strong thesis statements. She would let him think of what he wanted to say here or there and pen it into his rough draft for him, cuing him and modeling for him. Not long ago he even brought a paper that his mom had printed off the internet for him—one hundred ways to replace the word “says” in your writing! She and the kids sang in February at One Heart’s Valentine’s banquet this year—and they definitely did it well. I know for me personally I continue to get bogged down trying to do too many things—and feeling that I am not doing any of them well. Cheryl’s life makes me want to do what I do very well.
Juggle expertly. Cheryl was a mom like the rest of us, doing the stuff day in and day out; making decisions as to what could fit in their schedule and what had to be dropped; budgeting for a family of six on her husband’s full time salary and her part time (third shift!) job; trying to meet the needs of four children and a husband while serving the Lord and others; attempting to manage a household, homeschool, and more. And she did it with such grace and skill. “Juggling” is one of the hardest jobs for the Christian mom—and one that I, like Cheryl did, want to do more expertly—and with fewer balls dropped.
Teach our children God’s Word and God’s ways. My sons were greatly affected by Cheryl’s passing after having worked with her at One Heart, as well as through being friends with her kids. It has been hard to think about the Too children being without their incredible mother. However, it is also amazing to think about how thoroughly and diligently Heng and Cheryl taught their children God’s Word and God’s ways. At home, through church activities such as Awana’s (in which their parents helped serve), and, yes, “when they walked by the way,” the Too children were instructed in righteousness. Can I look for more opportunities to teach my boys God’s Word? Can we read more, study more, listen more, and talk more? I think we can; and I want to.
A godly mother’s life well-lived. I know that I will not be the same as a result of getting to know Cheryl and seeing her life end so quickly and suddenly. Let’s provoke one another to good works as this mother did—even moreso as we see the day approaching.