What do you do on Valentine’s day when your loved one has entered into glory to be with the Lord? One thing you can do is to pay tribute to some remarkable women who contributed greatly to her life on earth but who are now present with her in glory. It is quite amazing when you reflect on it, that these women who had been her close friends for over 40 years have all passed away in the space of just 5 months.
September 2019 saw the death of Maree Anker whom we first met when we moved from Brisbane to Armidale when I was appointed the Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral, Armidale NSW in 1978. Maree was highly intelligent as a graduate of Melbourne Uni and a very keen believer. In later years she helped foreign students prepare their theses for submitting to the University of New England in Armidale for higher degrees. Her love for languages also meant that she studied online to understand more of the depth of the scriptures by studying their Hebrew and Jewish backgrounds. Being multi-talented she was a gracious hostess and could have excelled at all sorts of artistic pursuits. She encouraged me as Dean of the Cathedral to allow her to introduce Christian dance in the Cathedral. I was a bit hesitant, but when I saw how the dancing she introduced was a good and faithful expression of the scriptures, it became a greatly valued part of our worship in the Cathedral. When Maree was diagnosed with cancer in latter years, she did a lot of research and would often ring Carole to pass on valuable insights she had discovered.
October 2019 brought another sadness. Our dear friend Lettie Watson went to be with the Lord. She and Carole would ring each other often several times a week to encourage each other. Lettie came into our lives when she came into our church at Mt Gravatt for a morning service. She and her husband Jeff and their good friends John and Merle had been to an agricultural show in Northern NSW and had come on to Mt Gravatt to check out the Bishop’s suggestion for me to be the next Dean of Armidale. [Parishioners later good-naturedly said that if they had known they were there to pinch their Rector they wouldn’t have greeted them so warmly.] From that moment in 1977 Lettie became a close friend of Carole. Jeff, even though he was the Shire President was willing to become my Dean’s Warden and together Jeff and Lettie contributed so much to Cathedral life and to our lives personally. Gifts of food and milk from their farm would often arrive at the Deanery to our delight. Our friendship continued when they retired to Dorrigo and we would always go to Brisbane via Dorrigo mountain to meet up with them. After Jeff’s death, Carole decided to increase her phone contact with Lettie and so there would be several calls back and forth each week until Lettie was unable to call or receive calls. That was a very sad time for Carole, losing contact with a beloved friend.
At the end of October it was my beloved Carole’s time to go to be with the Lord. Even when she was put into Palliative Care and growing weaker day by day, she continued to ring her friends. I have written before in previous articles about what a beautiful, caring wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend Carole was, and you can read in those articles about this amazing woman, whom all of us who knew her, miss so much today.
Another of Carole’s close friends came down from Brisbane to her Thanksgiving Service in Port Macquarie in November. Beverley Littler and her husband Roley and family, came to our Mt Gravatt parish in the early 1970’s. They both grew quickly as new believers and we became very close friends. I will always remember Bev giving her testimony at a morning service and a friend who had been absent overseas for several months remarking on what a remarkable depth had come to Bev’s faith in such a short time. She loved people and it was not surprising that we remained in close contact when we moved to Armidale. She and Rol would come to stay with us in Armidale and we would stay with them whenever we went to Brisbane. Bev had lots of friends and loved ringing them. She became known as “Have A Chat Bev,” a title she loved. The friendship didn’t lessen even when we moved to Sydney for 18 years and then retired to Port Macquarie in 2006.
We had a wonderful touring holiday together some years ago as we traversed through much of NSW, and to Kangaroo Island in South Australia and then back home through Victoria. A highlight for us was seeing the sheer delight on Bev’s face as an accomplished painter herself, as she stood in exactly the same spot in his studio at Hahndorf, as the famous Australian artist Hans Heysen had stood, as he painted some of his famous paintings. She was deeply appreciative of God’s universe and of the God of this universe. She was sensitive to the Lord. I well remember one Monday morning sitting at my desk in the Deanery in Armidale and praying, “Lord please guide me today as I read your word.” I had come under attack by some of the hierarchy because the Spirit of God was moving powerfully in the parish and some did not understand what was happening and felt threatened. As I finished praying and opened my Bible, the phone rang. Initially, I hesitated because I had asked the Lord to speak to me through His word and was about to read the Bible. But I decided to answer the phone. It was Bev who said that she had been praying in the kitchen that very morning and a passage of scripture had come into her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she felt she should share it with me, not knowing that I was waiting to hear from the Lord. When I asked her to share it with me, I was amazed because it spoke directly to my situation. He had indeed spoken to me through His word—through Bev.
She and Rol came all the way from Brisbane by coach to attend Carole’s Thanksgiving Service in November last year in spite of all the road closures and the smoke because of the bush fires. Then they left at 2am by coach to travel home a few days later. We all appreciated the effort they made in coming to farewell Carole. Sadly it was only a few weeks later that Bev tripped at home and fractured her sternum. She was healing well until complications set in and she too passed on to be with the Lord. Just over a week ago I attended her Thanksgiving service in Brisbane where a massive congregation gave thanks to God for the impact she had had on their lives as one of God’s godly women.
Godly women. United in Christ on earth for over 40 years. Now united with Him and with each other in heaven, all in the space of just 5 months.
So what do you do on Valentine’s Day when you no longer have a Valentine into whose ears you can express your love? Do something that she would have approved of wholeheartedly. And that is, thank the Lord for the friendships she enjoyed which He planned on earth and now fulfilled in His presence in heaven. So I “dips me lid” in tribute to these remarkable women who blessed Carole and me by their friendships and whom Carole was privileged to bless in His love. None of them may have been featured in Australia Day Honours or in Nobel Peace prize listings, but their life stories are written forever in heaven and many of us on earth relish such wonderful memories of them. I am sure that as they all entered into heaven in these last 5 months, there was a great cry to welcome each one of them, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
A Grateful Tribute to Godly Women! Maree. Lettie. Carole. Beverley. The earth was richer for your presence and remains blessed in your absence, because of your faithfulness to the Lord and to one another [and to others] for those 40 plus years!! To God be the glory! Great things He has done! And through you all! For us!