But God made us his captives

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.

I had met Jane at church—enough to greet her. But I got to know her when I was asked to regularly pick her up for church once a month. She was a little hard of hearing, but her mind was sharp as a tack, and we had fascinating conversations going to and from church. She told me about the books she was reading, about events and people in the retirement center where she lived, about her own story—the jobs she had held, her decision not to pursue a doctorate at Pitt though she was invited by professors there to do so, her choice to worship at Ascension, her siblings and their families, her decision not to marry . . .

Jane was up to the minute with current events and shared some of her concerns with me. Once we drove by a lot where a huge old apartment building had been razed. She said, “Wouldn’t that be the perfect spot to build the new Amazon distribution center? I’m quite sure Amazon will choose Pittsburgh.” (They didn’t.) I was impressed that Jane was aware of the competition for this potential source of jobs and was able to engage with me in a discussion of the pros and cons of Amazon coming to our city.

When Karis, All I See Is Grace was published, I bought a copy for Jane. But she greeted me asking for an autograph–in the hard copy of the book she somehow obtained on her own!

Jane loved our family. She followed Dave’s ministry in detail, and always had pertinent questions to ask him. She loved nothing more than a visit from me at her retirement center—if I brought Caleb along. She was thrilled when both our daughters were pregnant at the same time.

Visiting Jane for her 94th birthday. The retirement center was decorated for “Christmas in July.”

Then she suffered a massive heart attack. When I went to visit her in the hospital, she almost leaped out of bed in her excitement. “Debbie, you’ll never guess who was just here! Mark Stevenson! Such a nice young man.” (Mark is a pastor at our church. I think he’s about my age, so perhaps Jane thought of me as young also?!) Jane proceeded to talk to me nonstop for over an hour. She would have kept going, I think, had I not needed to excuse myself.

After that heart attack, Jane was moved from her lovely apartment in the retirement center to a nursing home, where she shared a hospital-style room with a woman who was not happy she was there. In fact, hostile might not be too strong a word. When I looked at Jane, startled at what came out of the woman’s mouth, Jane laughed and said, with a little chuckle, “Perhaps in time I’ll win her over, poor dear.” She set aside the book in her lap—one of the classics; I’m sad that I don’t remember which one—to show me with delight cards and photos she had received from friends and family. When I was ready to leave, Jane said, “Don’t worry about me. I am content. Contentment is a choice. I have chosen to be content.”

Those words have rung in my mind and heart often since that day a few months ago. I didn’t imagine that would be the last time I would see Jane. But then COVID hit. We kept in touch through notes on cards, and Jane sent cards to each of my daughters when their babies were born (she had kept track of their due dates).

July 26, Jane’s 95th birthday, her COVID test came back positive. Last night God took her Home. She has left me with the scent of Christ-like fragrance, rising up to God.  And the reminder that contentment is a choice.

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