This study has made me reflect on the people I’ve known who have led consecrated lives – a line of thinking that led me straight to a wonderful woman named Lil.
Lil was 98 when I met her at the nursing home, and was just three months short of 100 when she died, eagerly and peacefully, in a local hospital, a few months after being baptized at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. (Alas, she was not immersed in the enormous pond as a dozen others were. Getting her down to the site was challenge enough; immersing her would have been almost impossible. But there’s no doubt that the Lord saw her submission to a good dousing, following her heartfelt testimony to a huge crowd of witnesses, as “an appeal to [Him] for a good conscience,” as the apostle Peter put it in 1 Peter 3.)
Having been saved at age 17, when she responded to an altar call in her family’s church, Lil had never gotten around to believer’s baptism over the decades. In fact, she had not quite put the Lord on the throne of her heart for many years.
But when she did, look out! I doubt that the Lord has had many bolder, or more courageous, evangelists in His army.
By the time I met her, Lil was confined to her wheelchair. And the blindness that had begun at least a decade earlier had by then closed her eyes completely to the things of this world. Perhaps that was one of the reasons she was so on fire for the Lord – she was no longer distracted by the material world.
It didn’t matter who you were – friend or stranger, nurse or aide, purveyor of orthopedic shoes or relative of her latest roommate. You couldn’t walk into her room without eventually being quizzed about your relationship with Jesus, and being prayed for, and receiving one of the tracts that her many friends kept her supplied with. But she did it all with such joy and love and giggle-filled humor that I don’t imagine she offended anyone but the most dour atheist.
And once she knew you, she made you feel like you were her best friend in the world. How I miss hearing her cry “Kitty! I’ve been waiting for you!” when I hurried to her room each week, my heart leaping with happiness at the sight of her.
Lil’s enthusiasm for my visits was genuine; there was not an untruthful bone in that old body of hers. But it was fascinating to find out how many others felt exactly the same way about their relationships with her. There must have been 200-300 people at her funeral – exponentially more than I’ve seen at any of the other funerals I’ve attended over the last decade. Not that this made her a better person than any of the others, or more loved by those closest to her. But it was certainly a good indicator of how important she made us feel, how essential we each knew we had been to her happiness.
Lil’s funeral opened with a video of her giving her Christian testimony, taped a decade earlier. In fact, the entire event was as Christ-centered as she had been personally in the last years of her life. If there was any weeping, I didn’t hear it; it’s impossible to be overwhelmed by sorrow when you know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that your dear friend has simply gone on ahead, to meet her Lord and Savior face to face.
I for one am looking forward to joining her one happy day, to seeing this consecrated life of hers translated into its heavenly presence. I like to think that when I see my dear Lil, I will once again hear her happy cry: “Kitty! I’ve been waiting for you!”