Eulogies of our dearest ones are often shared, like beautiful bouquets, at their memorial services.  I have often thought it would be better to share them with our loved ones while they are still living, so here is a tribute to my dear Sister, Nancy, who has suffered so much for so long.

My dear sister, it is quite possible that Ellen and I will not get to see you and hug you again this side of heaven, from what we understand; but know for sure that your younger brother and your angel sisters, one older and one younger, are begging God’s mercies to flood your spirit and to make your “crossing over” something that you are glad to welcome. We love you dearly and all of us wish we could be with you when that moment comes.

Your nerves were frayed to the edge of what was bearable when, as an eight-year-old child, on a visit to your cousins who lived on a farm near that little south eastern Iowa town where we grew up, you stood by in anguish and watched our eleven-year-old brother drown in the creek that weaved its way through that farm on an August day in 1947. Your night mares recurred for years and the whole tragic event left an indelible mark upon your mind and spirit that you will take to the grave with you. A year or so earlier, your first-grade teacher had sent you home in the spring with a report card indicating that you needed to repeat that year in school, even though your card and teacher had indicated no progress problems through the year. Mom was shocked, called a meeting with the superintendent and school board and succeeded in getting the decision reversed, but the teacher remarked that she would see to it that you would fail the second grade. She did and you were failed. What the school board and superintendent did not know was that the teacher, one of our aunts, was in a running feud with another aunt and she was trying to mete out justice in her warped way of thinking by failing one of Mom’s children. You never were much of a lover of learning in school-room settings following that sad saga that left you a child-victim of an adult warring world.

You were three years older than I, and I was pretty thin and looked a bit scrawny and it was not uncommon that some bigger bully-type would intimidate me in the school yard and promise to get me after school and it was more than once that you, tough as nail s and fearless, came to your little bro’s rescue and no bully would dare challenge you. Thanks, Nanc!

We moved to Ottumwa from Douds shortly after Teddy drowned when Dad was hired at John Deere. What a blessing that was. At some point you got into doing acrobatics and I remember how you amazingly contorted your body so that you could lay flat on your tummy and bring your feet up and lay them down next to your ears, all without moving your belly from the floor.  You were in top shape and you were a beautiful girl and your kid brother was proud of you.

I remember, too, how Mom had a struggle trying to get you not to chew gum in church. We attended North Court Baptist Church and it was a Sunday after Sunday episode as Mom lectured you about your gum chewing during church. I don’t think she won the battle. There were, of course, other battles with a teenager, trying to make it through her turbulent teens with all the emotional baggage she brought with her from childhood. I think it would be safe to say that you probably gave Mom and Dad more sleepless nights than any of their other children. I was soon off to college and then marriage to my sweet Ellen, then seminary and ministry and my visits back home were pretty infrequent for many years, but none of your siblings will ever cease to be grateful for you, Nancy, for watching over and caring for our parents as they forged their way through aging, old age and finally death.  All the rest of us lived far away from Waterloo, Iowa, but you always lived less than 5 minutes from them in their later years, and when the time of life came that they needed help, you were always there for them, caring, sharing and assuring them of your undying love for them.

You may not have cultivated a love for classroom learning, but your heart, after you got past those difficult growing up years, was always tender toward the Lord and your love for Him showed. Mary Ann recently wrote a text to us saying that at the kitchen table that morning you could hardly hold your head up but you “prayed the sweetest prayer; I wish you could have heard it.” Your love for Jesus and your faith in Him and trust in His goodness has never wavered through all the tests and trials you have endured including unspeakable physical, tormenting pain. You have preached many sermons to us by your life and love for Christ through a life-time of extraordinary difficulties. Thanks again, Nanc!

Your house is a haven for kids of all ages. Dolls, marbles, huge jars full of marbles of all sorts and sizes; pictures, beautiful, many of Jesus and Biblical characters and pictures that represent the past, traditional way of life that most of us our age remember; pithy sayings on plagues that are reminders of practical truths pertinent to daily living.  When we were children we relished a trip to Grandma’s attic, where all sorts of dusty old things that were of the turn of the century (1900) vintage, found a final resting place; but a trip to Nancy’s house, well every room is jammed pack full of “treasures,” not the least of which are all those little bowls, any one of which, if you were to lift the lid on it, you would be delighted by some kind of candy, always the best candy that kids love, and it’s yours for the taking. What a palace of precious things.

You adore your only son, Mark, and your grandchildren and great grands and any little one with a “grand” before its name is your pure pleasure. Always, our children looked forward to a visit to Aunt Nancy’s, because of your artful ways of entertaining them with stories that made their jaws drop and their eyes pop which was a child’s dream come true.

Well, my dear Nanc, I could go on and on. I hope you live to read this post on the 16th and though I know you do not have internet I am confident that Mark or Ben or Josh will bring a copy to you and read it for you. I wish I could be there, but it will probably not happen. I am sharing this tribute to you, Nancy, with many of my friends and I would be remiss if I did not conclude with this little poem, I penned for you some years ago:

Born in Iowa, reared there, too;
Lived and loved in Waterloo.
She’s my sis—one of a kind,
Part of me in soul and mind.

Gentle with her hands and caring;
Brave in youth and even daring.
From her sweet heart always sharing,
Leaving others better faring.

Mother of one and granny to three,
With time and effort always free.
To all of us around her near,
Nancy is a darling, dear!

With her heart she feels so deep;
In our cares with us she’ll weep.
When we need to rest awhile,
She can make us laugh and smile.

Never was a hurting word,
From her lips by loved ones heard;
With her gentle hug and hand,
She can make the worst feel grand.

Now her life is past half spent;
We must wonder where it went!
With our sis we’re getting old.
She improves with age, like gold!

We ask God to keep her here,
With her family year by year;
In our hearts she has a place,
Etched by tears and love and grace.

Lovingly, Your Brother
August 20, 1997

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