An Ode to Anna Richardson

I should be working, but I can’t.  We lost a wonderful, lifelong friend this morning, and I’m struggling.  We’ve experienced many deaths these past few years, but for some reason this one is especially tough.  I knew her for almost 40 years.  She was a friend, a mentor, and a role model.  Not only to my wife and I, but to countless others.  We laughed together, cried together and, at times, fought and argued with each other.  I could not go on today without sharing a few thoughts about this incredible woman.

I first met Anna Richardson back in 1978, when I was a somewhat awkward, smart-mouthed, know-it-all teenager.  She, her husband Doug, and son Sean, attended the same church as my family – Tempe First Assembly of God.

I still recall how my friends, Alex and Scott, and I would take such delight in razzing her.  We would take even greater delight in teasing Sean, who was very young at the time, trying to get him going during church services.  In response, she would chase us around the church foyer (and sometimes into the parking lot).  When we were caught – which we inevitably were – she would pinch our cheeks so hard I would not be surprised to learn that I still have some of her DNA embedded in my face.

Face pinching.  It was a practice she carried on, at least with me, until recently.  I never thought I could miss pain so much.

Despite our razzing, she and Doug always opened their home to the church youth.  I recall innumerable evenings playing games at their house; swimming in their pool; eating their food; just plain enjoying fellowship.  Oh yes, and maybe once or twice we would toilet-paper their house, which would generally not end well for us (see, once again, face-pinching).

Hospitality.  It’s a gift.  Indeed, it’s a spiritual gift.  One that Anna practiced well all her life.

That laugh.  That infectious, unmistakable, one-of-a-kind laugh.  If Anna started laughing it would not be long until everyone around was laughing.  It was a joyful laugh.  It was a unique laugh.  Shoot, let’s be honest, it was a LOUD laugh.  You could be in a crowded room, and if she started laughing, you knew that “Anna is in the house.”

The joy of the Lord was Anna’s strength, and it was on display whenever she laughed.  I wonder when I’ll want to laugh again.

Anna had a beautiful voice.  She sang at our wedding.   She sang at our friends’ weddings.  She sang solo.  She sang duets with her sister, Cathy.  She sang in quartets.  She sang in church choirs.  She sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.  She sang with such ease.  She sang with such beauty.  She sang with such joy.  She sang with such thankfulness for the gift God had given her.

Anna’s voice.  It was unique.  I will never forget her talent.

Anna loved our children (and baseball).  I am convinced that she and Doug are a major reason that our son, Zack, became such a huge Arizona Diamondback fan.  When Zack was still a youngster, whenever we would visit Phoenix on vacation, she and Doug would take Zack to one or two baseball games.  He would always come home so excited, ready to share his experience.

Thank you, Anna, for loving my kids.

Anna was a dispenser of wisdom.  Innumerable times, from my teenage years up through very recent days, she provided me with great advice.  I didn’t always want to hear it, but I always needed to hear it.  She did not always dispense it with kid gloves, but I always received it with appreciation and understanding.  Most importantly, however, she never forced her wisdom on me.  She always waited for me to ask.  Sometimes, in the moment, I wished I hadn’t.  But, inevitably, I was grateful.

The wisdom of Anna Richardson.  Those who experienced her, know that it was invaluable.  I am so grateful to have been a receptor.

Anna was a comforter.  When Cinda’s mother died, she stood by her like no other.  She was there for us when my Cinda underwent brain surgery.  She was someone that we could count on during times of struggle and heartache.  She would encourage us, pray for us, help us carry our burden.  She always did so with no fanfare.  No one knew of her ministry to our family.  That wasn’t her motivation.

We will sorely miss Anna’s tender, loving, and comforting voice in times of struggle.

Most significantly, Anna was a woman of faith.  Anna loved the Lord with all her heart, soul, and mind.  Anna loved God’s word.  Anna loved to serve God.  Anna loved to worship God.  Anna willingly used her gifts to further His kingdom, and to serve and encourage others.  Anna was not one to tell you she would pray for you, and then not do so.  You knew she would – and did.  You always knew where you stood with Anna.  She was a woman of great integrity.  Paul must have had Anna in mind when he wrote to Titus, providing instruction regarding mature women teaching the younger women the virtues of a Christian life and how to conduct oneself.

Anna Richardson was a model of Christianity.

These are just a few of the many memories I have of Anna, and that poured forth this morning. She will be sorely missed.  And while I, and many others, mourn for our loss, we know, undoubtedly, that Anna is continuing the worship she began here on earth, but doing so at the feet of Jesus.