I came across this picture on the Facebook page of a friend and former parishioner. It's the headstone for one of Molly's namesakes. We named Molly Abigail for two beautiful women from our congregation in Ohio who fought valiantly against cancer and who now rest in the arms of their Savior.
The first was Molly Abella, who was a beautiful young in her late twenties. She died about three months before we left Zanesville. When we were discussing baby names, we had the darnedest time agreeing on boy names, but at the same moment we both said, "Molly," and we knew it was right. Looking at our Molly now, a lot of the things that made Molly Abella beautiful are the same things that make our own Molly a treasure: her spirit, her joy, even her beautiful long hair with its unruly curls.
Gail Szczesny is the other woman for whom we named Molly. We added the "Abi" part, but she's named for Gail nonetheless.
Gail and her husband Bob are the grandparents to three of the kids who were regulars in my youth group in Ohio and the daughter and son-in-law of one of my shut-ins. The Szczesny's always welcomed me into their home and showed me a great deal of love. They and their children also welcomed Faith more warmly than pretty much anyone else in the congregation I served in Ohio. They and their children were among the very few members of the congregation to contact us after my resignation was announced with any kind of warmth. Bob and Gail invited us to visit them in their home, where they fed us and loved us and cried with us. Their daughter Sandra and her husband Mike took us out to lunch and brought us gifts for the as-yet-unborn twins, and while I don't know if Faith knows it, Mike is one of the men I wanted to honor by giving our son the name Michael. Another daughter, Jana, and her husband Bob and their children still keep in touch with us today.
Gail was a lovely older woman who had fought cancer for a long time. It had gone into remission, but when she relapsed it took a heavy toll. She died in 2006, about eight months after we moved to Louisiana. She's buried about an hour from where my parents live in western New York.
Thank you, Lord, for families like the Szczesny family and their children and grandchildren. Thank you for making them a part of our family and our lives.