My dear friend Ann passed away recently. Ann was one of the building blocks of who I am, not in large dramatic ways, but in so many small ways that, when I think about it, I see her imprint all over my days, affecting in some way or another how I raised my children, how I relate to Stephen, the ways I pray and meditate on Scripture, my willingness (that has never come naturally) to speak up when someone is headed for trouble.
Ann and I met shortly after she moved to the Ithaca, NY area, when she came to our small house church one evening. I don’t remember first meeting her, but I would guess that she introduced herself to me—she is far more sociable than I, and I was probably hanging back, a bit shy and reserved. Right from the start, she became family to us, mostly as a much-needed source of wisdom and encouragement to me, a young wife and expectant mother at the time, but also a warm and loving person in our children’s younger years, and a fun, wise friend for all of us. One of my children said he always had a sense of “her support, and a sense of her love, faith, and very profound kindness when she visited. It seems like she was like an aunt or grandmother to us…”
And there’s so much more—Ann's openness to reading all sorts of books and the many recommendations she passed on to me, both classic literature and interesting new books on all sorts of topics. We probably talked about what we were each reading in every conversation we had. The fun we had cooking together in my kitchen when she would visit, companionably sharing life. The wonderful stories of her children and extended family members, most of which in some way or another exemplified God's faithfulness and Ann's trust in him. Her insights into each of my children’s personalities and strengths and into mine as well.
It wasn't that we always saw things the same way, because we didn't. Ann was adventurous in her thinking and attitudes, while I am more skeptical and cautious by nature, but we always loved and respected each other and were always interested in each others’ thoughts. To hear that she is no longer here is hard to believe and very hard to accept. I will miss her always, but will always carry with me some of the ways she influenced my life and who I am.
Perhaps foremost, Ann’s example of faith, no matter the circumstances, influenced me deeply and helped me grow in trusting and loving God. She was never without Jesus, not just in the sense that he was always with her as he is with all believers, but also in the way she was constantly aware of his presence and in open, easy communication with him. I got to know him better through spending time with Ann. Perhaps that is what I will miss the most. Ann’s wonderful smile must be brightening heaven now and I look forward to a joyful reunion when I see her again. We will have much to catch up on.
This passage comes to mind when I think of Ann and her abiding faith in God:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3: 17-19
Here are a couple of poems that Ann wrote on scraps of paper when she was visiting us:
Crocuses Beneath the Snow
Crocuses beneath the snow,
do you know- do you know
How near is the sun,
That winter is done,
And you will tiptoe forth
With a sudden golden sound,
Crocuses beneath the snow,
Do you know? 3/21/89
Hemingway’s heroes move me, but not in
the way you might think;
His lovers don’t move me to love-
His drunkards don’t move me to drink;
With his anglers I’ll not go a fishing,
With his hunters not follow the trail;
His men can have all of his women,
His women each bull fighting male.
His boxers can box themselves silly,
toss each other right out of the ring;
When they land with a thud in a puddle of blood
I personally don’t feel a thing.
Yet Hemingway’s heroes move me to
Cry out with all of my might,
“If I earnestly try, I wonder if
I like Earnest could learn to write.
(written July 1999?)