June 25, 2021

Love’s Litmus / Natalie Hoefer

Granddaughter’s decade of devotion a witness of love

Natalie HoeferIn areas where I fall short, I like to think God gave my portion of virtue or gift to another. One person in particular comes to mind, an inspirational Indianapolis woman named Jennifer Arvin. She seems to have a double dose of traits I find lacking in myself.

Take generosity of self. When it comes to giving of her time and self to others, she is the personification of 1 Cor 13:5—love “is not self-seeking.”

For 10 years while working full time, Jennifer also held two part-time jobs, served as president and board member for the local chapter of a national organization, created gorgeous fused-glass art and assisted students in doing the same.

Those ventures were time-consuming. Yet they never stood in the way of her top priority: spending several evenings each week, plus a Saturday or Sunday, caring for her widowed maternal grandmother from 2008-2013, and for her widowed paternal grandfather from 2014-2018.

Jennifer didn’t just help them—she engaged with them. She viewed common tasks like cleaning, laundry, mowing and grocery shopping as opportunities rather than chores. She even indulged her grandmother’s pleasure in meandering through every aisle at the grocery store—including aisles with items not on the list—“because it’s what she wanted, and it was time spent with her,” she says.

This quote encapsulates Jennifer’s generous approach: turning what some might see as a burden into a bouquet of quality moments serving and getting to know her grandparents.

That approach motivated her to go beyond a checklist of common chores. She took them to Mass. She planted flowers with them. Cooked and shared meals. Watched the news. Made suet to fill the bird feeders. Sat on the porch talking, imagining images in the clouds or simply in silence.

After her grandfather fell in 2015 on an Indy Honor Flight trip for World War II veterans to Washington, Jennifer assisted with his physical and speech therapy. They went for short walks, and she helped watch his sodium intake.

In line with her penchant to generously go above and beyond, she created projects for them to do to help with his strength and coordination. They made seed starters, using tweezers to place the seeds in small cups, and planted vegetable gardens, even if the time of year wasn’t right.

One project even had Jennifer and her grandfather clasp hands in plaster and hold them still for several minutes. It required several takes. But the resulting mold is one of Jennifer’s most treasured items.

When her grandmother, Loretta Graf, died on Sept. 1, 2013, and when her grandfather, Norbert Arvin, died on Aug. 8, 2018, Jennifer was at peace. By spending unhurried, meaningful time with them, she knew she had given her all to care for, know and love them.

Looking back, she wonders how she kept so many plates spinning. But Jennifer regrets nothing. Rather, she cherishes the time she spent with her grandparents and the loving relationships and memories that her generosity cultivated.

Love is not self-seeking. Rather, love seeks for the good of the other.

When driven by love, one can find—or choose to take—time to care for others.

Jennifer Arvin’s decade of devotion to caring for her grandparents despite a life loaded with responsibilities is what the gift of self-giving looks like.

And the peace and joy that follow—those are God’s gift in return.
 

(Send your stories of people you know who live out agape as described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:4-7 to Natalie Hoefer at nhoefer@archindy.org, or call 317-236-1486 or 800-932-9836, ext. 1486. Include your parish and a daytime phone number where you may be reached.)

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