During three years of seminary (many years ago) I spent the majority of my free time with the same dear friend. Mrs. Jo and I walked through those days, side by side, sharing life. I had two small children she referred to as “the babies” and she had free time afforded by retirement. I peppered her with questions like a ticker tape machine, gleaning from her vast well of practical knowledge. I learned how to quilt, can, bake petit fours, grease a bundt pan to perfection, and cook a fine pan of cornbread in my cast iron skillet. Mrs. Jo had a family tree with sons, daughters in law, grandchildren, family, and friends that filled her life. Yet, she still had space to draw me and my little family into her heart. She made us her own and adored us like a rare and valuable treasure.
Most of our collective days were filled with the mundane. However, there were a few excruciating weeks following the impossible diagnosis of her oldest son’s brain cancer. I brought “the babies” to visit with her and her husband as often as possible. We couldn’t fix the hurt but we were most definitely a distraction. The moment she called to tell me her son had been healed in heaven I rushed to her house to be by her side. I asked, “give me a task, what can I do?” Mrs. Jo handed me a bottle of pledge and a dust cloth. She said, “this house is filthy and is about to be filled with people.” I understood her prioritized cleanliness and the need for being busy.
In a chapel talk years ago, Rev. Anthony Carter described two types of friendships. Those that make sense and those that can only be described as “In the Lord” relationships. Mrs. Jo and I had little in common as far as hobbies, bedtime, and daily tasks. But we both loved Jesus and had time to pour into one another.
Sunday morning brought the news of this beloved friend's passing. I am so thankful for the role Grammy Jo played during long and lonely hours while Andy was flooded with seminary and pastoring. I will never forget those saturated seminary days by her side nor the sporadic conversations sprinkled through the decades since. I will also never stop making her cornbread in my cast iron skillet.
“The Gospel makes strange friends.”
-Rev. Anthony Carter