According to her husband, almost her last words on this earth were, “Where’s my lunch?”
That’s the kind of woman Ann Thompson was—unstoppable. But truthfully, the verb ‘was’ is as wrong as wrong can be.
On September 28 Ann’s soul blazed home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, her savior and her best friend. Ann now has a perfectly healthy, powerful, brand new body to match her indomitable spirit. I can just see her—like a lot of cancer survivors—rowing down a river, her upper arms strong, leaning into each stroke.
It was more than five years ago when I met Ann. I’d enjoyed her singing during the worship time at church. In the aisle after the sermon ended, I admired her outfit and gorgeous red hair. The woman was nothing, if not chic. After the hellos and learning a bit about each other, she glanced at me with warm assessment.
In that loving tone that only the best of mothers or the best of friends use, she asked me, “Are you strong? Do you look after yourself?”
“Ah, not as much as I should,” I said.
She looked me straight in the eye. “You know those dragon boat rowers, those women who survived cancer?”
“You have to be strong, like that.”
Ann’s life taught a lot of people a lot of truths, but that’s what she taught me—To be strong and courageous.
You could stop me now and say, but Ann didn’t survive cancer. It’s true the cancer took her body, but it never took her soul. She fought the disease to the end. She never hid what was going on with her health, but shared it outright, asked you to pray for her and Bob, and then went on to what was happening in your life. Ann won her fight with cancer. Right now, for the first time in over a year, she’s able to sit down at a banquet table and chow down. Her loved ones and friends go about with watery smiles in a daze of release—she’s no longer suffering. She’s gone home to LIFE.
In previous posts, I’ve spoken of Ann as a woman of zest, comparing her to sparkling strawberry jam. Well, she’s that all right, having a wild sense of humor. Must be her Irish roots. I know because her husband Bob can giggle through his tears, over the outrageous things she’d say only three days after her celebration of life service. Her last joke, the one about her lunch, she said barely above a whisper, but with a twinkle and perfect decorum. While I’m sure she had her moments, nothing seemed to get that lady down.
But that’s not completely true. Saying goodbye to the people she loved did get her down, hating to be the first to leave a party, I guess. Silly dear, she’s gone on first to decorate for the really BIG celebration--the Lord's day. Probably ordering the cake, the flowers, the party favors, and helping set the table—just so—for the rest of us when we eventually arrive. In the meantime, I’m quite certain she’s ordered that perfect hue of paint for her apartment in the celestial mansion, and has the stepladder and brushes ready for Bob. But it will be a while before Bob goes home. While God the Father has Ann immersed in all kinds of creative work up there—painting, singing, quilting, investing in people’s lives, to mention only a few, He has big plans for Bob down here. Big plans. When someone we love passes on to Glory, we have to hang on to that. Death is not the end, only the beginning. I must remember that when my time comes.
During the last two weeks of Ann’s earthly life, many people from our church and from Ann’s family sat with her while she slept. I’m sure it was the same with the others, but the last time I saw Ann, my words to her were, “I’m going now. I love you, we’ll see each other, soon.”
She gripped my hand, her strength there only for a few seconds, her eyes bright, flaring with love for me, and said with just a feather of a breath, “I love you too. We’ll see each other again.”
I left the hospice, feeling not so much that I had ministered to her, but that as usual, Ann had ministered to me.
Only last fall the tree, shimmering gold in my backyard made me think of Ann, with the realization, then, that it was perhaps her last year. The leaves fell. Christmas came and went. Then, around Easter, the spring brought that tree back to leaf.
It is not the end. It’s only the beginning.