On Christmas day, my good friend Ann McArthur went home to be with Jesus. Ann and I met in elementary school in South Florida and we became fast friends all the way until I moved to Tennessee in my senior year in High School. After that we lost track of each other. She went to college, I went to college, got married, moved to California and had kids. Around 15 years ago, Ann searched for me and we found each other again through my sister. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her in Florida when I was down visiting family. It was so nice to reconnect with someone I've known since forever. After that meeting, I never saw Ann again, but through her efforts we stayed in touch with emails and a few calls throughout the years.
Ann was always sick. She inherited a heart disease from her father and then also got diabetes early in life. As a young girl, all she ever dreamed of was getting married and raising a family. Due to her constant illness, she never saw that dream fulfilled. Still, her love of children pushed her to pursue a masters degree, teach school, and eventually become a social worker for abused children. However, her constant illness forced her to resign 10 years ago and go on disability. Since then she'd had several open heart surgeries amidst various other health issues.
Why am I telling you this? Because God did something amazing in the last month. I can count on one hand the times I've spoken to Ann on the phone over the years. Yet, about a month ago, I received a note from her, telling me she was in rehab, and giving me a number to call. I did. In fact, I started calling her every Saturday. Many of you don't know me personally, but I'm so NOT a phone person. I don't enjoy talking on the phone and rarely does my busy life allow for phone chatting, but I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Ann for those 4 or 5 Saturdays. You see, Ann was a remarkable person. Or I should say she had become a very remarkable person over the years. She never complained about her situation, never grumbled that she'd never gotten married or had her dreams fulfilled. She never once even indicated that she'd gotten a raw deal in life. Instead, she would always shift the conversation away from her and onto me. She was so full of joy and life and peace that it seemed to flow through the phone and shower over me. After I hung up, I always felt better than when I called her. One day I asked her "Ann, what is your deal? How can you be so cheerful when you're in the hospital with only 15% of your heart functioning?" She laughed and said two words to me,
The kid I knew when I was young was not like this. She was like any typical kid, whiny, complaining, teasing her brother, even fibbing to her parents, and she rarely spoke of God. But this Ann, this new Ann was unlike anyone I've ever met--unlike most Christians I've met. When I suggested that God must still have her here for a reason, and perhaps it was to tell a nurse or doctor about the Lord, she said "Yup!" with all the excitement of a child at Christmas.
On Christmas day, Ann ate a quiet lunch with her mother (whom the Lord also arranged to be staying at the same hospital) and then she laid down to take a nap and breathed her last.
I believe Ann's work was done, yes, but I also believe its possible that she became too much like Jesus to remain on earth another second longer.
You see, I believe Ann's lifelong illness was a blessing in disguise. Because she couldn't do much else, it enabled her to spend many hours hanging out with God. And people who spend time with God cannot help but be changed.
God gave me the greatest Christmas gift of all. He allowed me to reconnected with this precious friend and see and admire His work in her life. To see that life isn't about getting our personal dreams fulfilled or about our own happiness or even our own health. It's about getting to know Him and then spreading His love to others.