Yesterday, family and friends assembled in Brooklyn to honor the memory, and celebrate the life of my sister-in-law, Roberta “Birdie” Langella who died on October 2nd. I shared a brief testimonial and I would like to post it here to further memorialize the impression “Birdie” has left on my life and heart.
My name is Christina Langella. I am honored to stand before you today as Roberta Langella’s sister-in-law.
Like many of you, my heart is broken and I am grieving.
When I learned of Roberta’s passing, the cry of my heart was: My sister. My friend.
My heart longs to see her smile, hear her laughter, hear her say something absurd — just one more time.
The things that marked me most about my sister-in-law are, I suspect, the same things that marked many of you: Laughter, Art, Compassion, Gospel.
Roberta loved to laugh. Anyone who spent any time with Roberta knew this was a girl with an amazing sense of humor. In fact, you could call it outrageous. Sometimes I would walk away thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she just went there.” But she did. And she did it well. She was quick. She was witty. And if you were feeling in any way sad, Roberta knew how to make it just a little more bearable by making you laugh.
Roberta loved art. As many of you know, my sister-in-law was an exceptionally gifted artist. She loved colors, and textures. If you invited her into a room and asked her what she thought, she could tell you right off the bat: You gotta move this here, put something like that there. I liked to call her the “Master of Disaster” because she knew how to fix a mess. She was generous with her giftings and spent much time rescuing us from home projects gone wrong.
She was one of the most compassionate people I ever met. She had a radar that just naturally zeroed in on the hurting, and the downtrodden. Sometimes if we met someone new, and she felt that persons need, she would say, “You should reach out to her.”
But there is a very specific memory I want to share with you. It is something that happened a few years ago. She and I were rummaging through boxes and other items I had in storage and Roberta stumbled upon an old mirror that I had purchased at a garage sale. It was an old antique carved wood frame with a beveled mirror. Unfortunately, some heavy items had been carelessly tossed on top and the glass was now shattered and the wooden frame was cracked and broken in multiple spots.
“What do you want to do with this?” she asked
I quickly told her, “Get rid of it. It’s not salvageable.”
“What if God said that about you?” she quietly asked.
And ever so gently she squatted down, and with the skill and precision of a physician, she began to pick up the broken pieces and put them back in place.
So often – even in Church, we pay attention to what is strong, beautiful, successful.
I know that many people here know Roberta from a “testimony”. That testimony would suggest that she walked in strength and victory. But those who were close to Roberta tell a different story.
We tell of a woman whose faith was, more often than not, weak; whose strength was small; whose progress painfully slow; whose transgressions many, and whose infirmities multiplied.
When the adulating crowds dispersed, when the lights went dim, and Roberta was left with her own heart corruptions she was a far cry from what the image the world knew.
But that day as I watched Roberta’s gentle and skillful handling of a broken and unsalvageable object, I wondered if this was not a picture of God’s gentle dealings with a broken and imperfect Roberta.
You see, I was witness to tokens of God’s kindness and mercy everywhere in her life. And I do believe that her brokenness, rather than the curse she believed it to be, was actually a blessing designed in love by a kind and merciful God. Roberta had been handled by God in much the same tender way she handled a broken object. Is it any wonder that she was so merciful and so compassionate to the down trodden? Is it any wonder that she kind, and gentle with the weak?
So often we rail against God for his providential dealings, we bemoan our conditions, our circumstances, we wish things were different. But could it be that our very afflictions and hardships are the very things that God, in His mercy, would use to keep us low, humble, and in Roberta’s case, merciful and compassionate to the weaker?
I believe I saw, on that day, a picture of God’s gracious dealings not just with our very broken Roberta, but also His people.
For me, this is the most important gift Roberta has left me. And it is my honor to share it with you all today.
Psalms 18:35 “You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your right hand has held me up, and your gentleness has made me great.”
Related Links: https://theauthorofmyfaith.org/2016/10/07/roberta-langella-memorial/