On a whim…

Life without whimsy is not much of a life at all; without it, a walk in the dark is no laughing matter.

A Friend Remembered

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Ann Fearon was my friend. She was friend to my family, to my late wife, and to our girls. To be on the receiving end of her friendship was not to be taken lightly. Her’s was the truest of friendships and she exercised her prerogatives to the fullest. Not too long ago I was reminded of my debt to her. I preached a sermon during the absence of our pastor and afterwards I was complemented for my diction. I was told that my diction (not my content?) was ‘remarkable’. It is to Ann’s fault or credit that I propel each syllable of a word from my mouth. She once told me, “It just won’t do. You can’t say ‘moun’n’. The word is ‘moun-tain’”. So I enunciated, I perfected my elocution and I attacked every syllable of each word with an earnest ferocity such that the alleged perfection ascribed to me belongs to Ann.

Ann was quick to advise me. At times I thought she was too quick to judgement but time has proved her right far more often than wrong. (Frankly, Ann could make me gasp.) I suppose this makes her sound judgmental. Perhaps to some she seemed so but not to me. Maybe that’s because she wrapped even the sharpest things in a laugh. For Ann, laughter was less than a weapon and more of a defense. The world was always a bit brighter when she was around and God knows that our family in general needed all the brightness we could get. And, yes, I know that laughter can carry a hidden weapon far and hard and speedily into the heart. But when it came to Ann it seemed to me that only the inflated ego had much to fear. She was, as they say, a character.

When I told Ann I was planning to remarry she was concerned that I should be sure to have more children. Only Ann would ever be so bold. But her counsel was sound when she, as a surrogate parent, indicated her approval of my choice. Lucy and I have not brought any children into the world but we have in our care a fine boy who, like so many others, became very attached to “Miss Ann”. So, Ann would inspect me, shoe shine (she always approved). Savannah Wildlife RefugeWere my cuffs completely buttoned? (She could not abide a partial job). Was I ‘peeking’ when leading public prayer from the pulpit? (She tattled to me of colleague whose practice was to fiddle with his notes during the benediction on TV.) And, most importantly, didn’t I surely know where the best crab could be caught and didn’t I have the decency to take her, Beth, and the girls there?

Do you know that until her health failed she kept me up to date on so many of my former parishioners. Thanks to Ann, I have prayed without fanfare knowing that God is far better at bearing them up than a noisy/nosey note from me could ever be. She sometime wondered that I did not make the rounds when visiting the region and I explained that I thought little of ministers who did not know how to ‘move on’. Ann seemed to accept that but she ensured that the former congregation was not forgotten to me. Thanks to Ann I have prayed when I heard of their afflictions, considered their grief as my own when they suffered loss. And, thanks to Ann, I celebrated when their news was a joy.

When we moved to Port Wentworth I knew little of the history of that place. It lacked the fine verandahs that line private gardens of old Savannah. It was blocked from any scenic views of the river by pulp mill, sugar refinery, and shipyard. The single most significant non-industrial structure in town was the conglomeration of buildings known collectively as ‘the projects’. What drew us there was not the beauty of the place but the call of God; what kept us there were people of character, people like Ann.

That’s what I most remember and cherish; I remember her character. She was not simply “a character” she had character; She defined character. These days I spend much of my time working with scouting. I talk with my boys about character and how a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. By my count Ann Fearon had that kind of character. Could Ann be trusted? Was she loyal and helpful? Was she perfect? Ann was being perfected as are we all.

Someone once wrote that a pastor needs four kinds of friends. One type the writer described was “the disturber’. Deuteronomy 32:11 describes an eagle whose chore is to disturb her eaglets and compel them to take to the air. She disturbs the soft down that lines the nest and exposes the broken fragments of bones and thorns, and in the discomfort of her young she prepares them. “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.” Ann was the friend who was unafraid to make things “a bit pointy”. She was determined to challenge me. When we left that place she warned me, and I think there was a tear in her eye, “Don’t leave the ministry, you will lose your faith.” I have not left the ministry though it has a shape far different than the one I imagined it might have these eighteen years later. But, no, I have not left the ministry Ann.

So for those who knew her and to those who may well wish they had I offer these words:
Into an un-ending future, to a time beyond time where the God of Eternity reigns is our Ann gone. To the Everlasting God whose kingdom knows no end, to the Savior whose blood was spilt for the least worthy among us, to the Spirit whose fiery breath purges our souls of contempt I give thanks. Ah Great God, in your house, at your table, in Your presence there sit an ever growing number of those whom we love. In your timeless mansion keep a setting at the table for us and keep in our hearts the reminders of their tenderness and your grace.
I think even now, if I listen, I hear the echoes of her laughter and the quiet giggle of another old friend. 

It is the certainty of their peace that helps us bear the longing that fills our hearts in their absence.

Note: The image of the Savannah Wildlife Refuge is from a Flickr photo stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dizzygirl/

Written by David Wilkerson

6 February 2012 at 8:23 pm

Posted in death, grace, hope

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