Mary Zissimos (Koutrompi) 1924-2016
I met my future mother-in-law Mary at an after-church social at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour. It was a young singles gathering, but for me it was a opportunity. You see I had my eye on a girl. Mary was there because she was riding with her daughter. Mary fit right in even though everyone around her was a generation younger.
One thing led to another and soon I married her daughter. I gained not only a wife, but a "mom" in every sense of the word. She loved me as her very own. At times I would object saying "Mom, I am just your son-in-law". No matter. Her answer was always the same. She would tell me that I was her child in every sense except for giving birth.
I Make You Lamb
I occasionally stopped by without the family. Just because. With Mary you didn't need a reason. On one particular visit she said "l make you Lamb". It was 8 pm. I said "Mom, I ate already." No matter. Try telling a Greek mom you aren't hungry. So in that summer evening twilight, mom fired up the the barbecue and made me lamb chops.
Sometimes my father-in-law would be out when I dropped by, so Mom and I sat at the kitchen table and shared pleasant conversation. She was always encouraging. That's probably why I liked to stop by. I remember how often our conversations revolved around scripture and nearly always ended with prayer.
She spoke her mind. Without fear. With love. I had to learn to receive her words in that spirit. I realized later that she spoke her mind out of love. She was a warrior for reconciliation. Anyone who really knew her, knew that was her heart.
Mom was also a prayer warrior. To know Mary was to know she was praying for you. If you came to her for counsel, as many did, it was a certainty that you could not leave without being prayed for. If you were sick, she would anoint you with oil.
When my oldest son was 5, we went to see his first Lions game. On the way out, Mom reminded us not to leave without prayer. So we prayed together and set out for the old Silverdome in Pontiac. While we waited in the cold at the outdoor ticket booths, a man asked us, "just you and your son?". I said "yes". He said here are your tickets. 12th row, 50 yard line as I recall. Perhaps she should have prayed that the Lions could actually win.
Trips with Mom
We took Mom and Dad (my father-in-law) on many trips: Mackinac, Niagara Falls, Canada's Wonderland, Marineland, Cedar Point to name a few. Mom was always agreeable. Regardless of the accommodations and food, Mom was always thankful.
In 1992 we took the entire family out West. There were six of us in packed into a minivan. While driving from Utah to Yellowstone, we had gotten lost, so we were driving late at night on mountain roads with the only light being our headlights and animal eyeballs. Of course, Mom was in the back praying that I didn't fall asleep, drive off a cliff, or hit a buffalo. Mom's prayers were answered. At midnight we arrived safely at our destination.
For many years she held a bible study and prayer meeting at her house. People came from all over to be prayed for, anointed with oil. She was an 'elder' without a title, a salary, or an office. Pastors of churches sought her for prayer and counsel.
As I think about what Mary left behind, how her gift to me and to us could best be summarized, it came down to one thing: herself. She gave of herself. That I have learned is the most concise definition of love.
A Full Ministry
Mary was a women of great faith and prayer. I can never underestimate the power of her prayers but the real power of her life was love. Mary often told me "Love and Forgiveness is a full ministry" and "Love is Healing". With a sixth grade education she knew more about "ministry" than anyone I've ever met. She loved like Jesus. She embodied the life of Christ.
But to me she was "Mom". When I had no mom on this earth, she took me in as a son. I have missed her and I will miss her. I hope my remaining years will honor her love, her faith, her prayers, and her example. I hope and expect that one day I will see her again.