Two of my friends died recently, a prayer partner and a prayer mentor. Esther and Freda had much in common. Both had been missionaries – Esther in Belgium and Freda in what was then called the Belgian Congo. Both lived life to the full, always thinking of how to serve others. Both were humble, unassuming, down to earth women of faith and prayer.
Their deaths were both sudden and unexpected, yet very very different. Unlike Esther who was raped and murdered in her flat by a stranger, Freda died peacefully on her way to bed. She had recently celebrated her 90th birthday and her encouragement to our ladies prayer fellowship was to persevere in faith and prayer. The night she died she had laid out her clothes for the morning, turned back her bedcover and opened her Bible reading for the next day: the promise of resurrection (Acts 2:27-28)!
Living and Dying in Faith
As I thought about Esther and Freda, I read again the famous Bible chapter Hebrews 11, with its list of heroes who lived and died in faith. It begins with Abel who was murdered, and Enoch who didn’t see death at all! I reflected on the apostles James and his brother John. James was killed by Herod, but John lived to be an old man. Remember Peter’s post resurrection chat with Jesus by the lake. Jesus revealed to him how he would glorify God in martyrdom. Then he had to rebuke Peter who, seeing John behind him, asked, ‘What about him?’ The answer was pointed, ‘What’s that to you, Peter? You follow me!’
The Freda Principles
It’s so easy to compare ourselves with others, or have some sort of ranking system for believers in our hearts, often subconsciously, until God catches us out. We can be so like the disciples of old who argued about who was the greatest.
When our ladies prayer fellowship gathered on Zoom to remember Freda, each one spoke of her Christian character, in particular her attitude towards individuals. She always saw the good, treated people with respect, and wanted to encourage each one to joyfully follow the path mapped out by God for them. Interestingly, the NHS wants to have a similar approach to health care (without the God bit) and talks about the Freda principles. They are well named.
Of course, unlike the NHS, church is a family with much closer relationships. Freda was a constant in my walk with Jesus over 45 years, a mentor who often spoke a word of wisdom into my life. One friend said Freda was like a big sister, sometimes even like a mother who could tell her off! I want to be more like her, with more appreciation of others, more compassion for those less fortunate, and the grace to bring a word of challenge when appropriate.
Turn your Eyes upon Jesus
Funerals are a time to consider our values in life and face the inevitability of death. As we sang Turn your eyes upon Jesus at Freda’s Farewell, I felt her mild rebuke. Freda and Esther were so heavenly minded they were of great earthly use, for Christ was both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of their faith. That end goal is now achieved and the pain and sufferings of this life are but a distant memory. I know both these friends would echo the words of the Apostle Paul,
‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).’
Thank you Freda, prayer mentor for 45 years, for through your passing and poignant farewell you have helped me process the death of my prayer partner friend, and renewed my desire to live life in the light of eternity.