We met 33 years ago when both were fairly new to this rather closed, small town with a Southern bent and built by miners’ money. Both of us were “book people” and frequented the local Carnegie Library built at the turn of the 20th century. We wanted the place to grow and continue to be a force in town so we went to work forming Friends of Library. In the process we became friends of each other.
She had moved to the far edge of town, near a creek with forested banks. She and her husband bought a real Ozark property with a four room rock house with dirt floors that had been home to a couple who reared a passel of kids there. They set to work building a stone fireplace, setting hardwood floors, and making walls of glass so they could breakfast among the birds. Then she began turning an old chicken coop into a building for her painting and prayer time. She named it the Sunbeam House, and it was, like Jacquelyn Ann herself, filled with light and love.
I was a mother with small children while she was finishing rearing her third and last teenager. She was hunting a new place for herself in the world and became an ordained minister. She made numerous paintings of angels. She counseled people, leading them to find peaceful lives. We stayed in touch. Eventually our husbands worked on a friendship too.
A few days ago, my friend died in her sleep. Shock. Loss. Pain, but only for a while because I knew she died as she had lived with happiness, contentment, and a faith-filled life. It was the death she always wanted…to go to sleep and move on to another place when the time was right. It had been a lovely day her son told me. She had admired her beloved flower gardens and fed the hundred hummingbirds that live nearby. Another book, she had one more chapter to finish before bed. Her children listed in her obit that she was pleased to be finishing The California and Oregon Trail, Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life by Francis Parkman Jr. With the book finished, she went to bed, to sleep, and to God.
A matter of hours later, her son took a picture of the Sunbeam House. He caught rays of morning sunlight beaming down on Jacquelyn Ann’s yard and wrapping around her Sunbeam House. Clearly my friend was passing on a blessing, a comfort to us all that all was well.
While we will miss her, while we adjust to a hole in our lives, we will remember well the light she lived in, the light she shared with all she met, and light she gifted so many of us with. And in this moment of what seems like darkness to those left behind, it will be our job to become the moons to her sun, reflecting all she taught us about Light.