I believe, with all of my heart, that there are angels who walk among us on earth. I’m serious; real, alive angels who appear as wonderful human beings but only until they are summoned back to “headquarters” and leave this earth, can those who believe in a Risen Christ feel the void in the air. This week Terri Farmer went missing.
They say she died during her sleep sometime Monday night after having dinner and laughing delightfully with some of her countless friends Saturday night. She showed no signs of illness nor despair. Sometimes I imagine that’s how it is with angels … they slip silently away to fluff the pillow, set out the good china, and arrange the hydrangeas to await the rest of us who she loved.
Believe me, it will take a lot of hydrangeas.
“Pastor Frank” (Ramseur) even wore a beautiful tie when he conducted the service at Calvary Chapel Friday morning and he was at his eloquent best. A huge crowd was there and at Thursday’s reception in her memory the visitation line stretched almost to Duluth (not Georgia … Minnesota.) What Terri and Tommy have meant to our community is legendary.
I have known her since we were teenagers and she was so cute she would have had to beat suitors off with a stick had not God himself joined Terri and Tommy at the hip in the ninth grade. Their 55-year dance – oh, and was it ever a waltz -- revealed a love that all the rest of us tried to emulate. Every child grew up fine and now the grandchildren were being mentored by their Mimi in a way that made each of them the luckiest in the world.
But the thing about Terri was she wasn’t supposed to be special. She was never showy. Never elected to office. Never had a big fancy desk with meaningless accolades on the wall. But it is my belief that there are fewer than 10 women in Chattanooga and the surrounding communities who have touched and delighted and loved more people than Terri Farmer. I know. I’ve watched. Her life’s picture was painted with a broad brush and bold strokes.
During the funeral an elderly man stood to voice tribute and told how he could never remember her name. Finally came the day when she accosted him at the small group classroom and demanded, “What’s my name!” His memory began to stumble until Terri put her finger on his forehead and pushed hard. “I just made a dot on your forehead. From now on you call me Dot!” Please, it was classic Terri Farmer!
The same man then said, “Dot just organized a birthday party for me with my family. I was 83 and, as everybody knows, there has never been a party like it. She helped my small group (at Calvary Chapel) become the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. It has changed my life,” he boasted, winking at Tommy as her devastated husband hugged some of his grandchildren close.
This was before “Pastor Frank” told us how Tommy was nigh inconsolable. “The first night I hugged him Tommy said ‘This is horrible.’ The second night Tommy said, ‘’This is not the way it was to be. I was the one who needed to die first…”
Frank answered, “No, you’re wrong. You loved Terri so much you would never allow her to go through the pain, the longing, and the agony you are going through right now … oh, she would have willingly done it for you, but the whole world knows you loved her and would stoutly refuse. So just remember you will be rejoined with her for an eternity.”
What Frank failed to add is that every single person who Terri touched, as a school teacher, the head of the American Cancer Society office, the driving force behind the craniofacial foundation, and so many orbs more is also in shock over her sudden death. Her women’s group, her broad spectrum of friends, the gaggle of girls from the church she loved to meet for giggles … oh what each one of us would give for one last chance to thank her for enriching our lives.
I am going to ask God one day how anyone so seemingly insignificant can climb all the way to “My All-time Top Ten” list in a way that not one of us ever noticed until, within the twinkle of an eye, she was gone. I am serious. Explain that phenomena to me. I sat behind a row of her “giggle group” with Buddy Killebrew during the funeral and he’ll attest; theirs was a love so real and powerful we could both feel its pull.
I’m thinking the Master might say, ‘Did you ever stop to watch how Terri only cared about lifting up others? Did you ever see her take credit for one single thing? Did you ever watch her with her children and (Meg excluded) fail to deliver 100 percent as a mother, a friend, a teacher, and No. 1 advisor?” (As Jason told us, ‘Meg was her mother’s girl … they had a beauty unmatched together.”)
I’d say, “Master, you are right … she was always the first to show up when a friend was in a pinch. Her cake was the first to arrive for comfort, even her hug was special … so what’s with that? Why didn’t her wings crumble up in the back of her blouse??”
“And another thing, Lord. When I read her obituary and it said she was 68, I couldn’t believe she was older than me! Then I sat there and realized we were the same age. How come I look like it and Terri Farmer, until the very end, was as beautiful as she was the day she was a senior at Notre Dame? How did she look so young?”
That’s when God will say, “Angels don’t get old.”
“Alright then, why did Tommy always look like he was half everybody else’s age?”
“You won’t understand this, along with many other things, until you get to read out of ‘The Big Book’ in heaven. You are struggling mightily with Terri’s absence but everything you saw that Terri did for others, it was instead the two of them, wasn’t it? And it wasn’t just because he had to drive …” the Lord would say.
“Never fail to count your blessings because as all of the many thousands who also loved those two should realize, the love they shared gave the Farmers twice the power. Yes, double. Watch Tommy, he’s still got some doing to do because of his great love for people, and Terri’s spirit will live within him and all those children for generations. So, yes, she was an angel …”
And boy oh boy, did Terri Farmer ever paint with a wide brush and bold stripes.