I write a lot on laurakcowan.com about aspiring to a life lived truly. I’m very sad and bewildered this week that my friend and mentor Pastor Nancy Wilson, who best showed me how to live fully from the heart, passed away suddenly and at the young age of 60, leaving behind a family and an entire community that will hurt for a long time without her loving presence.
Nancy welcomed me with one of her characteristic hugs to a new moms small group at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor three years ago, when I was only beginning my journey as a new mom, struggling to balance sleep deprivation, work, family, and healing a back injury that just wouldn’t quit. When I didn’t know how to handle a major conflict in a healthy way, she was the one I called for advice. When I didn’t know how to go on amidst what seemed like unrelenting crises in my life, she was the one who told me “this too shall pass,” and that we all just do our best–and that it was okay that I showed up week after week, imperfect and messy and human.
And last month when she broke her leg and I finally had a chance to ask her what I could do for her for a change, she managed to turn around and help me instead, introducing me to a new friend who could give me important advice on this new career. I don’t know how she managed to give as much as she did without burning out. I don’t know how life can go on with that huge Nancy-shaped hole in the middle of it. I still wake up every day unsure if this even could have happened. But one thing I can tell you that has come out of this is many many conversations about how those of us who knew Nancy’s joy and love could be living our lives better than we are. How we could step in and pick up just a small piece of the work she did as pastor, wife, mother, and friend, and live our lives a little bit more for the love of other people.
I know that Nancy has already gone to her redeemer to receive a rich reward, and that life will continue and we all will have a chance to be better people for the extra moments we have been granted on earth, but this is hard. My life’s passion is writing, but even I would never have written the plot of the last week: Nancy leaving behind her loving husband and co-pastor Ken and her 5 kids, including her 18-year-old daughter, a continuing health crisis for my husband, and Nancy’s memorial service taking place during my best friend’s cancer surgery. Why is life this way? I don’t know. But it’s real. For sure, it is real. And I’m grateful for the reminder to live it to the fullest, just like Nancy would.
Will you leave it all on the field when you leave this earth? That’s not an easy thing to aspire to, but we all have someone in our lives who gives more than we ever thought they could, don’t we? I’m trying to think of this not as an enormous loss, but as a great privilege that I ever had Nancy Wilson in my life at all. I’m grateful for Nancy, and I’m grateful for this life that I wake up to every morning, and I’m grateful that you are in this with me.
I love you, Nancy. I’ll see you on the other side.