She laughed with joy, taught acceptance

In many ways, she was Naomi to me.

Whenever we visited, I would run up the two flights to her apartment - even during the three years we lived in Germany, when we were just two hours away and weeks - not years - went by between visits.

I loved my mother-in-law, Evelyn. Pictures of us together show me holding onto her, just as Ruth (in the Book of Ruth) clung to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Evelyn taught me to speak German. We talked about mother-and-daughter things, about the things we shared and the things we liked.

Evelyn taught me to knit. She taught me the rudiments of making bobbin lace. She taught me to cultivate acceptance.

That was never my strength. Like Ruth, I still go out into the world looking to change things. Evelyn was like Naomi must have been before she lost her husband and sons. Naomi was so kind and pleasant that she won the hearts of both her daughters-in-law.

In the Book of Ruth, she calls them "my daughters."

No wonder they wanted to go back with her to Bethlehem after the loss of their own husbands. She was their tie to the men they had loved. She had been a mother to them both.

Evelyn was a mother to me.

She had a voice like a girl. She sang high and soft and sweet. It was a gentle, innocent sound.

Evelyn laughed the way bells chime. She told me stories.

I learned about her life in East Germany when she was a little girl. There were stories of her beloved dog, Knautsch, and about hearing the bombers flying toward Dresden, and stories of her family's postwar escape to West Germany.

She told me how she and her husband, Willy, had to wash clothes at a village washbasin and wring them out together in the early, difficult years after the war. In the winter, she told me, she would knock the icicles off before bringing in the laundry.

Evelyn cooked with joy, ironed with efficiency, taught with great patience and loved to travel.

There was so very much to love about her. She welcomed a daughter-in-law of a completely different culture and religious faith into her life.

Evelyn made a gorgeous lace altar cloth by hand for her Lutheran church in Hagen, Germany. Despite her fear of flying, Evelyn also came to America for her grandson's bar mitzvah and learned Jewish prayers while she visited. She developed such an attachment to my congregation, Temple Or Olam, that she made us a handmade lace cloth for decorating the table at Friday night services.

Evelyn died unexpectedly in early July.

My Naomi, I will always and ever miss you.

Anyone who knew you will.