Friday, August 5, 2016

In Memoriam

I lost a friend last week. Her name was Angi Jenkins. Only 46 years old, her life ended after a lifetime of battling cystic fibrosis.

I knew Angi during my years in Hamilton, Texas. She moved to Dallas not long before I did. We reconnected here and then we became Facebook friends. She was often in and out the hospital dealing with serious health issues related to the CF. I dropped in on her unexpectedly one afternoon when she was having to stay at Baylor Hospital for several days. She apologized for not looking her best, but anyone who knew Angi knew it was impossible for her not to look her best. She had a luminous smile, a glowing spirit, and a bighearted presence that simply chased away any of the dark clouds that surrounded her illness.

She dealt with her situation with gifted humor, beautiful poise, amazing courage, incredible love and faith.

In these past days Saint Paul’s comment in his letter to the Philippians comes to mind: “I thank God every time I think of you.”

I say this because there was something in Angi’s spirit that radiated such a love of life that it caused me to often stop and consider how wonderful our time is here, what a gift existence in this world is, even in the midst of terrible disease, or heartache, loneliness or fear.

Michael D. O’Brien, a Catholic priest, artist and writer, has written in one of his beautiful essays, “Love is the soul of the world, though its body bleeds, and we must learn to bleed with it. Love is also the seed and milk and the fruit of the world, though we can partake of it in greed or reverence. We are born, we eat, and learn, and die. We leave a trace of messages in the lives of others, a little shifting of the soil, a stone moved from here to there, a word uttered, a song, a poem left behind. I was here, each of these declare. I was here.” 

Angi was here, and what lovely messages she left for all who knew her. In spite of her illness she fully participated in life. Nothing stopped her. She went everywhere and did everything. A Cowboy’s and Ranger’s fan, she sat in the stadiums and cheered. She met friends for lunches and drinks. She shopped, she cared, she gave herself to others in gracious and generous ways. Her nieces were treasures she cherished and they found her silliness with them, her fun and joy, a source of endless goodness and a model of how life should be lived by all of us.

Her relationship with John Blackall brought her comfort, friendship, love, and enjoyment that she adored and prized.

As a former minister I have been with people in all sort of calamities, illness, tragedies, personal disasters, crises of faith, broken relationships, insurmountable fears, stresses and emotional hurts. And I have seen a lot of death. Babies, children, teens, parents, sons, daughters, rich and poor, young and old. And I have come to realize, I am no longer surprised by death. What still surprises me is the stubbornness of life. And the indomitable courage of people.

Angi fought harder than almost anyone I have known. She wanted to stay here. She still had so much more life to live. But she knew, beyond any hope, that her days were likely to be less than most. She fought on anyway. And if you passed her on the street you would think, My goodness, what a beautiful, healthy, happy young woman. That was genuine in her. That was the true spirit of her essence.

Poet W.S. Merwin wrote,
“Send me out into another life lord
because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way”

This had become Angi’s reality. And she accepted it with composure, self-respect, assurance, and a resolute heart.

She tutored us in kindness, gratitude, reverence, bravery, and love.

A character in one of Willa Cather’s great novels speaks I think for Angi, "I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light and air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would only be sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass.”

How she loved flowers and nature, her little dog Peanut, her family and friends. It all was beautiful in her eyes. And whatever meets us after our time here, sun and sky, peace and welcome, Angi knows it now.

© 2016 Timothy Moody

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