Every now and then there’s a bend in life’s road that wakes me up all over again to the power of influence. One of those events has been the passing of my aunt Lois Ann last Friday—a passage from a rich and full life to the infinitely better life that’s way beyond my scope of comprehension.
As I reflected on her sweet life of service to God and others, it didn’t take me long to realize that there’s a myriad of little things I do that are pretty directly traceable to the preacher’s wife I was watching before I ever dreamed I’d one day be married to Glenn Colley, who would work hard to preach the gospel.
Lois was married to Bobby Duncan, who was my mother’s brother—both n the flesh and in the Lord. From the age of five, I grew up in the congregation where Bob preached. I can still remember the points from several of His gospel sermons and I’m sure the power of his pulpit played a large role—maybe the biggest one— in the conviction that’s guided my life. I’m thankful—-profoundly—for His plain and Biblical teaching.
But it may have been Lois, his wife, who gave me the most practical guidance. It occurs to me, when I reflect on the beauty of her well-lived life, that there are quite a few things I do that I probably do because I was watching her.
I think I have everyone in the church over every Christmas time because she did. I think I have one of my nieces or nephews each year to help me with “Christmas at the Colley’s” because she asked me, her niece, to come help her with her party. I remember one year she sewed for me a beautiful red polyester maxi-dress (this was the seventies) with white trim with a big bow that tied in the back, to wear to serve at her open house. I thought I was pretty big being invited to be the hostess at the petit four table at the Duncan’s house …and wearing a floor length holiday dress!
I think I place our family picture and Christmas greetings in the church bulletin each year because she did.
I think my husband has a little boy’s kite stashed away in his office, saving it for a little boy and a windy day, because her husband did.
It was Lois who asked me to serve at my very first dress-up banquet along with her daughter, Jill, and my sisters. I remember there were lots of surprises for the adults at this banquet and being trusted with secrets was a pretty big deal to me.
It was Lois who first asked me to be a baby-sitter. On Friday nights, Bob and Lois would play Rook with several couples from the congregation and very often, they’d ask me to come over and stay with Jill while they were out. I think maybe they knew that the absolute most fun I ever had on Friday nights as a middle-schooler was getting to be at their house with Jill, who was five years younger than I. I learned a lot, for certain, about hospitality and about the importance and art of making children feel special, from Lois.
I learned about traveling with my husband to his meetings and about being a supporter of gospel preaching from watching Lois. Sometimes, she and Bob would invite me to go along with them for a Sunday as they began a gospel meeting in a nearby town. They were probably inviting along some entertainment for Jill and, later, for their new son, Tim (whom I absolutely and completely adored). I was fifteen years older than Tim and I thought he it was the most amazing thing that Lois would let Tim sit with me during worship services and then come home with me for Sunday afternoons full of doing exactly whatever Tim wanted to do. I was sitting beside Lois in a small country church in Centre, Alabama when baby Tim broke my long strand of beads during his Daddy’s sermon and those beads bounced loudly on that tile floor, for what seemed like five full minutes, as they made their way under all the pews and rested in front of the communion table in the front and center of that little auditorium. Tim thought that game was epic. I’m glad he enjoyed it because he never got to play with beads in church again. And, speaking of beads, I will never forget that day when Jill, at about age three was playing, in her mother’s lap, with beads during the lesson and got one stuck in her nose. It was about three gasping, flailing, upside-down-in-the-foyer minutes later when that bead, too, (much to our relief) went bouncing across the floor. Sometimes I was laughing at the mayhem while I watched, but I was watching Lois.
I remember a few times when truth and faithful teaching were not appreciated by all who heard and I remember being absolutely sure that Bob’s number one cheerleader in the rough patches was his faithful Lois Ann. But she had a way of keeping it real, too. Once Bob was lamenting the digression of many preachers during a dark period in the history of the church. He said to Lois “I just wonder how many really good preachers are left today.”
Her answer was quick and dry: “I don’t know, but I think probably about one less than you might think.”
She was sacrificial to Christian education; being the entire lunch program one year for our small Christian school.
She was an encourager to young preachers and their wives. When we were in our twenties, we thought she and Bob just liked to go bowling with us or eat popcorn and visit or play cards or whatever we were doing while we were telling them the challenges of our work. We now know they were doing what they did not have time to do and that they were doing it for lots of young preaching families just like ours. They were going the second and third miles to keep people in the ministry and to keep them encouraged.
Lois gave us lots of valuable intangibles…memories and laughter. There’s one tangible gift, though, that she gave Glenn about 20 years ago following the passing of Bob. I think I can say that the filing cabinet in my basement that has all of the sermons that Bob Duncan ever preached, written out, in his own handwriting, is the most valuable and practical tool that my husband Glenn has ever inherited. It’s been a blessing to my brothers-in-law, my son and my son-in-law, all of whom like to come and copy sermons from a master preacher. I love it on the Sundays when I recognize material from my childhood and I marvel at the relevance 50 years hence of what I first heard from that pulpit in Adamsville, Alabama fifty years ago; teaching that took me to the water where Bob baptized me.
She loved souls. I’ve been on a mission trip or two with her. If you ever did that, you laughed a lot. You may have gotten salt in your ice cream when you weren’t looking or found the meat on your hamburger missing when you got back from the bathroom, or any number of mishaps. She loved to laugh. If you accidentally sung the wrong words in worship or belted out “He could have called ten-thousand angels” after the first verse, when they’d said they were going to sing all three verses first…well, it was all over if you were sitting beside her.
I have laughed till I hurt when with Lois, but especially when it was not a good time to laugh.
But Lois could get really serious about spiritual things. I remember once, when I was speaking to a group of ladies and she was introducing me, she said something far too kind and, frankly, untrue about my character. I was not the person she described. But I can tell you, from that moment, I wanted to be that woman. She had a way of always making me want to be better. I have an idea there are lots of people still working in the Lord’s church who are still trying to be better because they knew Lois.
I AM better for having known her.
Not often, but, along my path there sometimes crosses one
Whose words and actions leave, for me, a light when her life’s done.
The gifts she gave keep giving and her life keeps living on.
Returns from her investments are on track, though she is gone.
If death could stop the sway of right and rob that giver’s power,
Then I might weep and mourn the loss of goodness in this hour.
But the grave of a righteous woman is a mere sweet place of rest
And those who await its opening are the more, in that hope, blessed.
So thankful for the blessing today.