Last night I received a text from a friend and former parishioner, probably a bit of a no-no, as my year from them has not yet come; but this she knew would be important to me. Wanda Holcumbrink has passed away. Jesus welcomed her home. It saddens my heart, that I cannot be there for her official going away party. So I want to write this since I cannot be there and I cannot officiate as I have had with Bowling Green First Christian or New Harmony Christian Church congregants.
Wanda is now with her beloved Barney and the rest of her family that went before her. I have lost many parishioners in my life as a pastor and seen many people I love pass away but Wanda had a great impact on my life. I can list a few others of course but today is Wanda’s time.
Before I even arrived as her pastor, she was calling me and saying prayers for me. I admit I was initially caught off guard by this. A woman who I didn’t even know was calling from 1900 miles away to pray with me. That blew me away!
Wanda became my prayer warrior. She would call me out of the blue because had led her to pray with me and for me and usually it was just at the right time. She often told me she would pray for me at night because she wasn’t sleeping anyway. I somehow adopted my name of her from Wanda to Aunt Wanda.
She was also strong-willed and spoke her mind. Albeit in later years it was peppered with a few scattered, “hells and damns”. At times when I heard she was on the phone to talk with me it was with trepidation as I knew there might be a stern rebuke or a highly made suggestion always prefaced with, “now people have told me” or “this is just an opinion of an old woman”. Most of the times I would listen to those suggestions. A few times I balked and explained why I was doing things a certain way. She would listen and either agree or disagree. Always those times would end with prayer.
Often before service I would give her a hug and she wouldn’t let me go as she said a prayer in my ear before I had to go before the congregation. Sometimes she would decide we were a closing prayer at the end of the service and have us round-up. Sometimes she would want to pray or say something during the service that was not planned. No one ever complained because she was Wanda.
My visits with her in her home was peppered with stories of Barney, his mother, Daddy and Momma, her siblings, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephew and always a few anecdotes about Yvonne and Kay. She would share stories of the farm and of the church. It was easy to stay and talk with her and we always left with some applesauce. And of course we prayed.
Little Kennedy’s illness hit her hard. She shared with me that it caught her off guard. She felt that little one’s pain and it she admitted was hard to take and was causing her depression. But as you can guess she prayed. She saw the miracle happen in Kennedy.
As she started to fail in the last few years, she would not always remember when I came and visited her. She became home bound. One day I received a message that Aunt Wanda was “pissed that her preacher had not seen her”. I had but she was vocal about that.
Because she did not go out and I worried about her eating or lack of eating, I would go and get lunch and bring it to her. She said she would eat anything. So we would have pizza, fish and hush puppies or chicken with sides. I would always bring enough for her to have it for dinner too.
Aunt Wanda was a fierce prayer warrior and taught many of us how to pray deeper and longer. She taught us to have a heartfelt love of prayer and have a true deep and abiding love of Jesus. She taught and exhibited to us to be faithful in our Bible reading, in our study, in our actions and in our prayers.
Even as she begun to fade she prayed. My family and I had our last visit with Wanda on a Saturday before we moved to Idaho. I knew this would probably be my last time with her. She wanted to take a picture with my son Brandon and daughter Rose. I cherish that picture and to see her smile.We spoke of me leaving and how disappointed she was that I was leaving but she understood God’s call. When I asked to pray for her, she let me under the condition I let her pray for me.
There are many Bible verses that would describe Wanda; the Proverb of the Good Wife, Timothy’s word of fighting the good fight, 1 Thessalonians to rejoice in all thing and to pray without ceasing and the list could go on. But I think the one that was said to her was, “well done my good and faithful servant”.
Yesterday, Wanda went home and was welcomed by Jesus. She is now praying for us from up above. I will miss Wanda’s presence but I take a piece of Wanda with me to cherish in my heart. I can’t wait for the day I can join the party with you. I love you Aunt Wanda and welcome home.