Today is Anna’s birthday. She would be 16. I don’t often think about Anna in terms of what she would be like as an older child. On a lark, I once found a web site that would take a photo and “age” it for you. I put in a photo of Anna at nine and saw what she would look like at 13, or 14, or whatever age she would have been. The results were so grotesque that I decided it was best just to remember her as I knew her. So now I am a little like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind when he realizes that his friend’s daughter never ages. Anna is always a nine-year old girl for me.
But today she would be 16. That age is different. It is symbolic for teenagers coming of age. But it is more than symbolic when it comes to driving. Ah, Anna behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. That would be interesting.
If I think about what Anna would have been like as a new driver, I think of her learning to ride her bike. We were on stateside assignment living in a mission house provided by St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville. Anna had her first bicycle and we were teaching her to ride. We had the benefit of living across the street from the church and an enormous parking lot that was empty most of the time. What a perfect place to learn to ride.
We put Anna on her bike. After all the stops and starts, the child finally learns to pedal and steer. And to do both of those at the same time. And to keep balance. But as the child is keeping all these things straight, the bicycle does not always stay straight. Anna weaved around the parking lot, making huge circles and arcs, but staying on her bicycle. Fortunately, there was nothing she could hit, so she was completely safe.
Nothing, that is, except for the one car left overnight for some unknown reason, sitting in a far corner of the lot. Surely it was not a problem.
But no, Anna’s loops and arcs took her ever closer to that side of the parking lot. Then closer to the corner. Surely, I thought, she wouldn’t be able to hit the one one parked car in this place. As I thought those words, Bam!, Anna smacked right into the side of the car.
She was unhurt. She wasn’t going fast enough to injure anything or damage the car. But I figured that she had learned her lesson then.
Until later after she leaned to ride better. We took the kids out for a walk. We walked. They rode their bikes. As we walked, we pointed out things to be careful of. “Be sure to stop at the next intersection.” “Look at the stop sign.” Anna had learned to ride well. She had not yet learned to stop very well, however. As I watched to make sure she would stop at the intersection, I saw her try unsuccessfully to stop. Fortunately, she was so fixated on the stop sign, that she ran right into it. Well, I thought, that’s one way to stop. But maybe she didn’t quite get the meaning of the stop sign.
We went out to lunch today after church. We used to eat at Olive Garden every year for Anna’s birthday. It was a place that Anna loved to go when we visited my parents in California. We have started going to other restaurants now, but we always spend a little time reminiscing about Anna. She was a sweet girl. I remembered Anna as an interesting and interested person. She was inquisitive and thoughtful–a deep thinker. Sam remembered Anna as his best friend. She was creative. Timberley remembered Anna’s faith. Anna loved Jesus. She loved God’s word.
Anna, we still miss you. But we also know that we will see you again. As surely as you yourself understood that to live was Christ and to die was gain, we also have the assurance that we will one day stand before the same throne and worship the same God.
Maranatha. Anna resurget.