Christian Devotionals

"Tribute to Nancy Brown 1955 - 2007"

At the risk of sounding like Billy Dee Williams in the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song,” I have to say this: “I love Nancy Brown … as I’m sure all of you love her too.” If I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be remarkable. No, not “remarkable” as in The Little Rascals’ “remarkable,” but truly remarkable as in extraordinary. I’ve never known anyone quite like Nancy – not by a long shot. Sometimes you can better describe a person by saying what they are not. Let’s give it a shot. There are plenty of words that I would never use to describe Nancy. Words like quitter, uncaring, timid, tactful, subtle, and indifferent. There wasn’t an indifferent bone in her body. She had a strong opinion on everything and she let you know about it too. And subtle … she was about as subtle as a train wreck. Nor would I describe her with terms like “the quiet type” or “good listener.” I remember one time I took her to one of her countless oncology checkups and sat in with her. She started firing off a million questions and kept cutting the doctor off as he tried to respond. All I heard out of him was “But … I … We’ll … . After a few rounds of this, the exasperated doctor finally fired back, “Nancy, if you don’t let me finish my sentences, I’m going to stop answering your questions.” At which point, I said, “Yeah Nance, shut up and let the man speak.”

Okay, so we know which words not to use to describe Nancy. What about the words that we can use? Words like loving, generous, funny, strong, persevering, courageous and loyal. Nancy is without a doubt one of the most loyal people I know. Sure she may blast you when you get out of line, but if anyone says something negative about one of her friends or family members, watch out. She’ll defend that person to the end. Nancy had a great sense of humor too. She kept it throughout her battle with cancer and she leaves it as a legacy to her sons Travis and Lucas, her sisters Cindy and Helen, and to all of her family and friends. And by the way, I forgot another word to describe her: blunt. Nancy didn’t sugarcoat anything. She called them as she saw them. One day we invited her, Travis and Lucas over for dinner. It was nothing elaborate, but my wife Karen prepared a nice stuffed pork chop dinner for us. One of the items on the menu was couscous – that Moroccan mini macaroni thing. Nancy had never heard of it and was a bit leery of eating it (“Couscous? I don’t know if I want to eat anything named couscous”). Karen reassured her that it was good, to just try it. As we sat down to eat, Nancy scooped out some broccoli and a big stalk happened to be in her portion. She picks it up and proceeds to show everyone at the table Karen’s broccoli blunder. She said, “Would you look at this. This one got through quality control.” When she learned that we were having applesauce, she got all excited … that was until she learned that it was only Mott’s. “Oh,” she said, “Cindy always makes homemade applesauce.” For the pièce de résistance, our fussy guest – let’s call her “Elexahente,” which by the way is Spanish for “the demanding one” - was about to taste the couscous. We waited with bated breath as she sampled our Moroccan side dish. (kind of like Mikey’s brothers in the Life cereal commercial). As she was chewing, she replied, “I can honestly tell you one thing … you’ll never see couscous in the Brown’s pantry. Not in my house. It’ll never happen.” That was the final straw. I was ready to explode like Ralph Cramden after Ed Norton pushed him over the brink. Fortunately, I contained myself and never launched into Ralphie’s “Get out” tirade. I calmly replied, “Nance, just shut up and eat it.” When you got to know her, you could fire one right back at her and she was tough enough to take it.

She could take a lot of things. She was one tough cookie. I won’t delve into the details, but she’s had a lot of pain in her life. But no matter how tough life got, she never quit. Even our Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong could learn a thing or two about toughness and perseverance from our Nancy. I say that with total sincerity. Nancy broke every record for surviving stomach cancer. No one expected her to live more than a year – let alone seven and a half. Over the course of her battle with cancer, her collective dosage of chemo can be measured in 55 gallon drums, not cc’s. I say this with great admiration. You see Nancy and I have a lot in common. We were both born in the 1950’s during the Eisenhower Administration. We were both born in the Boston area. Our families – the Browns and the Riegers - were each other’s first friends in Simsbury. We both have kids in seventh grade and eleventh grade. Nancy and I, along with our spouses, were baptized on the same day, during the same service, and in the same hot tub or whatever you call it. Right here at Valley Baptist. Nancy and I are both left handed and we both shared the same oncologist. That’s right, I have stage IV cancer too. But praise God, Nancy no longer has cancer. She’s finally been liberated from this insidious disease. I took great pleasure in visualizing those ravenous tumors being incinerated when she was cremated.

I can also tell you with absolute certainty that our Nancy is in heaven at this very moment. She’s basking in God’s glory – probably interrupting Him more than He’s used to - but enjoying all the splendor of paradise. How do I know where she is? Am I just making polite pleasantries to mollify the bereaved? Hardly, I’m just being like Nancy … telling it like it is. But this time it’s not about opinions, preferences or beliefs, it’s about the truth … God’s truth. As remarkable as Nancy was, her courage, sense of humor and great mothering qualities were not the things that got her into heaven. Good deeds and good qualities won’t get anybody into heaven. It’s not about who Nancy was or what she did. It’s about who she put her faith in to save her. I happen to know that she put her faith in Jesus Christ – the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. She truly believed in God’s promise in 1 John chapter 5:

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

It’s this simple: Nancy has the Son and therefore, Nancy has life. Sure she could be stubborn at times, but she wasn’t so stubborn as to refuse God’s gift of eternal life. She knew a good deal when she saw one. And like Abraham, her faith was credited to her as righteousness. Not a righteousness of her own, but a perfect righteousness imparted to her through her faith in Jesus. That’s the only way to be good enough to get into heaven … relying on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own. Because of that wonderful reality, Nancy Brown is in heaven as we speak. She’s in a place where there’s no more night – a place in which the apostle Paul said he saw inexpressible things, things he wasn’t allowed to tell us about. A place where the Bible says there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Nancy sure knew pain – more than any human being should ever have to endure - but not anymore, it’s a distant memory now. She’s left that emaciated body behind forever and now her soul and spirit are with her precious Savior.

During Nancy’s last days, I would visit her at home and read the cards and banners that her students made for her. Get well banners. One comment by a student really touched my heart. It said that our school is not the same without you. Well guess what? This world and our lives are not going to be the same without her either. She touched us all and I for one have been blessed to have her as a friend. And because we both share the same Savior, I know with absolute certainty, that I will see her again when it’s my time to go to paradise. How about you? You know, Nancy wanted me to share something with you. She wants you to know that you too can be absolutely certain of your eternal destination. A place where there is forever fellowship with God and yes, a reunion with our Nancy. Heaven is God’s gift to you and it can be guaranteed through faith in His Son Jesus. It’s not a prize or a goal that can be achieved on your own, it’s His gift to you. That’s the pure and simple truth, embrace it! Jesus tells us,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”If you haven’t found the Way, I pray that you’ll choose the path that leads to life, because the alternative routes are empty pathways to destruction. I for one hope to see you all at the reunion. Now I’ll close this tribute as I began it. I love Nancy Brown! Thank you for being such a loyal friend and for making our lives more interesting.

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