Last week, she wrote about Miss Edna, who Lea called a Living Hero of the Faith.
Lea's one of my heroes.
So is my friend, Nancy, who like Lea, has not wasted any of her life experience. Nancy was married and the mother or 4 boys when her life turned on a dime. Her husband died suddenly when Nancy was in her late 40s or early 50s. If I remember the story right, she had at least one son still at home when her husband died from a heart attack.
I've heard Nancy joke about getting angry at her husband for leaving her too soon. I'm sure she probably didn't find much to laugh about at the time. They had moved out east of the city expecting to grow old together in that house, yet Nancy was left to live there alone for many years. It was only 6 or 7 years ago that she moved into town to be closer to family, to church, and to friends.
She had spent years working with youth, as mothers raising their families often do. Widowhood gave Nancy a new passion, a passion to work with single adults in the church. Over the years, she has helped local churches begin single adult ministries from scratch, and she has kick-started a few others. I met Nancy when she was serving as a director in one of the other classes in my church. Not long after that, when her peers were counting down to retirement, Nancy accepted a part-time job as a minister to singles at another church in town. She continued to work another full time job as she built that ministry. Nancy understood that wholeness can come only from a relationship with Jesus Christ - not from another person - and she was willing to do whatever it took to make sure others who were single understood that, too.
A few years later, Nancy stepped down from the singles ministry job and returned to my church. As youthful in spirit as she is in appearance, she continued her full time job, as she graciously took on responsibilities in my church, teaching, helping to lead our single adult council, and singing in the choir.
Not long after she came back, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through the chemo, lost her hair, and throughout it all, maintained an amazing amount of calm. She was frustrated when her hair grew back with a totally different texture, but she just grinned and learned to deal with it. I know she was exhausted and at times felt awful, but I never heard her complain.
Nancy recovered, and took her gift of teaching to a class outside of the single adult ministry, teaching in one of our church's largest classes. She has still ministered to single adults through that group. The class is diverse, with members ranging from their 50s to their 80s, men and women, married and single. It's one of the classes that made it possible for singles in our church to find a mixed class to call home. Now there are many classes in various age groups that are open to both singles and couples.
Nancy has not slowed down, even after retirement. She has led a women's Bible study downtown at noon every Thursday for last few years. She has a co-leader, so she could be free to travel to see family whenever possible. There are a couple of guys who she loves to spend time with, often hitting antique stores and I think a few estate sales, as well. She cheerfully stepped out of her own class for a few months to help my single adult class get started 4 or 5 years ago. She opened her home repeatedly for dinners, game nights, and Bible study. I know it was a lot of work, but she was happy to do it. When the women in our class had an old-fashioned tea party, Nancy gave several of us beautiful gloves to wear.
Nancy is blessed with the gift of wisdom. I can't tell you how many times I have called her to vent about some frustration, or stopped to talk to her in the parking garage, or caught her leaving the choir loft, and she always has the right words, and can usually turn my frustration to laughter.
I have no idea how many people Nancy has mentored over the years, but I feel blessed to be one of them. She could have pursued marriage after her husband died, but instead, Nancy chose to allow God to use her in the lives of others.
Nancy is facing the challenge of her life right now. Cancer has returned, and it's extensive. But Nancy and I had another friend (and hero), Kathy, who once had just as dire a prognosis but lived more than 6 additional years. I don't know if Nancy will be blessed with weeks, or months, or years, but I do know that she trusts God with all of her heart, and He has brought her through so much in her life. She has already been blessed with something her husband didn't have, the chance to spend more time with their sons, to see her grandchildren grow up, and to see a couple of her sons walk her granddaughters down the aisle.
Death does not scare Nancy, because she knows Christ has won the victory over death. Join me in praying for Nancy, that God will give her as much quality time as possible, that when the time comes, He will allow her the same dignity with which she has lived, but that before that day comes, she will be able to spend time with each of her sons.
Nancy, you have no idea how many people you have touched through your faithfulness. May God surround you with a cloud of witnesses, blessing you as you have blessed so many of us. You are loved.