Timberley asked me last night if we were doing anything today to remember Anna’s passing. I had been asking the same question and came up empty. It didn’t seem right to go out to dinner. We have developed the tradition, if you will, of placing a picture in the newspaper on her birthday. I would rather do that on March 29 than on May 7. So what to do? We don’t have a gravesite to visit, although we do still have her ashes. It would seem odd perhaps to put flowers by her remains. (A former professor of mine was asked by a Buddhist man at a cemetery, “Who do you think is going to smell the flowers?”)
I think the best way to remember Anna’s passing is to share the goodness of the grace of the God that Anna worshiped.
I have written before about the grace that God showed in many aspects of Anna’s death. All of these things are, of course, backward-looking. It is only in the remembering of a series of bad events that one can see the single thread of goodness woven throughout. I don’t know whether Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers and unfairly jailed in Egypt, was cognizant that God was doing all those things in the process of working out a plan for the benefit of Joseph’s family. But in his later reflection, he was able to say as much to his brothers.
One aspect of the grace of God that I see in the timing of the events surrounding Anna’s death is that Easter always precedes the anniversary of her death. That means that every year as we prepare for the remembrance of another year without her, God gives us our annual reminder that Jesus has ushered in a new perspective on reality for those who believe. We know that because Jesus was raised on the third day and then taken to sit at the right-hand of the Father, we too will be raised from the dead and be seated at the right-hand of the Father. In fact, Paul speaks of these events with such certainty that he speaks of them as already having been accomplished. “We have been co-raised with Christ and have been co-seated with him at the right-hand of the Father.”
Because of this new perspective given us by the resurrection of Christ, we cannot think of Anna’s passing in quite the same way. Every thought of missing Anna is accompanied by the comfort, not only for Anna but for us as well, that death is not the end of the story. The new chapter has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but is yet to be revealed to us. We will live again. Sickness, disease, lethal blows, accidents of nature, even the evil acts of other men are not signals of the end, but are rather enemies that Jesus battled when he died on the cross, and to which God dealt the final blow when he raised Jesus from the dead. That is the victory that awaits Anna when Jesus returns. It is the same victory that will be ours, for those who believe, for those who are called according to God’s good purpose.
One of Anna’s final letters she wrote was to her second-grade teacher in Louisville, Mrs. Buckner. In that letter, Anna expressed her desire that God would help her to share the gospel with her new Indonesian friends. Anna did not speak Indonesian very well, so she asked that God would help her to “show God’s love in its various forms.” By this show of love, Anna hoped that these young friends would come to know her Lord. Anna would want the same for you who might be reading this today. She would want you to know that God loves you, but that your sin has caused a breach in that relationship that no human effort can fix. There is nothing that we can do on our own to stand before the Lord as a righteous person. But God loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to die in our place, the just for the unjust, so that if we believe in him and confess that he is Lord, we will be saved. Anna would want you to know that you, too, can have eternal life.