Good Grief, Multiplied

A dear friend has died.

Mary Anne NolandShe gave her life to her family, her friends, her church, her God. She had given everything but the last of herself, and now she has given that.

In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says, “In the giving we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live finds its final significance in its being lived for others.” We are given. Given as bread for the world. Who can we be for each other? How can we out-do each other at serving, helping, supplying a need, lending an ear, loving?

In life, Mary Anne was for me, my certain reader. On any given day, she was the one I knew was reading this blog. If I posted, I knew Mary Anne was reading. Sometimes she would comment or respond or share something in reply. Always, she was listening to what I wrote, and that was life-giving to me.

When I sat down to craft some words, I could picture my sure-reader. I knew exactly what she looked like, where she was, how she might respond. This is gold to a writer, to be able to picture their audience. In fact, it is essential, to write to the one and let others listen in. It’s what draws life out of lifeless words and animates ideas, otherwise dormant.

Today’s is the first post Mary Anne is not here to read. How then do I write? To whom?

Nouwen offers, “If love is indeed stronger than death, then death has the potential to deepen and strengthen the bonds of love…. and  holds the potential to … multiply itself to fulfill the needs of countless people.”

Somehow, by freely handing over life to death, it takes on greater life to all who would receive it. A sumptuous meal will be served around the table, with enough for guests, newcomers and the wayfarer happening by, and still there will be leftovers. It multiplies itself in the giving.

I remember a conversation from years ago when Mary Anne shared the difficulty her aged mother was having, physically ailing as well as confused and forgetful. Having no experience with this, I wondered about correcting the poor disoriented woman to help her remember. Mary Anne advised patiently, “Even if they don’t remember what you said or even who you are, they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

Even in grief, we carry goodness when we touch the heart of the other with our presence which speaks the love for us. When the hearing is gone and the words no longer make sense, Something else speaks.

Sunday morning last, I woke up to the roar of a rushing wind. Pentecost Sunday had arrived and with it the Spirit of God who swooped close to claim and collect His own.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. ~ Acts 2: 1-4

Funny, I think Mary Anne read the Kinesthetic Christian because she seemed to marvel at the way I could speak a language she understood but couldn’t write and thought she didn’t have the words for. Now, she has expression for everything she desires. Thanks be to God.

“The spirit of love, once freed from our mortal bodies, will blow where it will, even when few will hear its coming and going,” Nouwen supposes.

Mary Anne, I can still hear your voice clearly: your clipped phrasing for what was not acceptable to you, your sense of humor, your honesty, your fierce loyalty, forthrightness and clarity. Oh, you knew what you were in for and what was coming just around the bend. I know you held on for as long as you could and then let go gracefully. Probably with a “To heck with this body. Bring on the new one!!”

How quintessentially you is the opening to your obituary: “Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68.”

Yep. Mary Anne to the core, to the end, and to the everlasting. How you embraced dancing in the rain. Sleep in heavenly peace, dear lady. One day, we will see each other again. There will be dancing and not a chance of rain.



About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on May 17, 2016, in Body, Christian, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Wendy,This post truly touched my heart…Mary Anne was so special to all of us, and you were able to pen a beautiful tribute to her! She made all of us feel important to her, didn’t she? Thank you for sharing what is on your heart, as I know that this would have meant so much to her. I know that it means a lot to me. Blessings,Kathy Date: Tue, 17 May 2016 18:03:16 +0000 To:

    • Thank you so much, Kathy. She had the genuine ability to care completely with her presence. And make you feel 100% loved. I trust and hope she knew we felt this way about her. May we all take her spirit and multiply it mightily!

  2. Wendy, you beautifully captured the essence of Mary Anne. She personified love, listening, intelligence, caring, humor, and faith. She will be remembered because we learned from her and she touched our hearts.

  3. thesmilingpilgrim

    What an absolutely lovely write up.

  4. Shirley and I attended Stephens Ministrey training with at COGS with Maryanne. She was my rock during this process with Jim as the leader. She helped me to understand and to grow in this process. It was a wonderful experience and Maryanne was my spiritual leader. I am blessed to have known her. I will be forever grateful to her and Jim.

  5. I didn’t know her, but through your words and imagery I feel that I have a glimpse into wonderfully led, precious life that had a deep connection with her treasured friends and dear Lord. I can understand how difficult it is to lose that connection. My sincerest condolences.

    • Thank you, Sheron. I am grateful that the words have brought enduring life. We are all fortunate who can say we have someone like Mary Anne in our lives.

  6. brenda wampler

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute to a beautiful person. Mary Anne was a nursing colleague while we both lived in Lynchburg, and then we both landed in Richmond years later. She found me via Facebook and I was glad. At the time, she has just been diagnosed. We got together several times but she was so very busy keeping some of her grandchildren that I sensed she truly needed time to be with her family as much as possible, so I backed off. A couple of months ago, we got together again and had a great time over lunch. We messaged each other until about a week before her passing. I wanted so much to have one more time to visit her, but, again, it was time with the family. She was surrounded by that wonderful, beautiful family when she left this earth, took her last breath. She was my most intelligent friend and we were so much alike. She got me without a lot of questions. I loved her dry wit. I loved her bluntness. She was also an excellent and creative nurse with vision. We don’t all have that. Her soul was strong. I admire her and love her and I will miss her, but mostly we all need to be here to help her family as they grieve and reach out for any information they can find on the greatness of this lovely lady.

    • Excellent, creative and with vision. It’s what God hopes for all of our lives. What a vacancy will be felt in this beautiful family, but what a very great legacy to live onward and into.

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