My most recent photo of Lee Ann and husband Rob, at our Mystery Dinner March 2017
The last time anyone saw her alive on this side of eternity, Lee Ann was smiling and princess-waving to those who loved her most as the nurses rolled her away to surgery.
How else would the daughter of the King bid farewell?
A few years ago, my dear sweet friend Lee Ann discovered she had a damaged heart due to a previously undiagnosed genetic condition. Doctors tried treating it with medication and heart-regulating devices, but late this spring it became clear that her only long-term option would be a heart transplant. After much prayer and consideration and many, many medical tests and evaluations, Lee Ann was put on the transplant list this summer.
The same day we left for Peru, we received word that Lee Ann's heart condition had worsened and she would be in the hospital until the transplant. Just a few days later, a heart became available (through the generosity of another grieving family) and tragically, Lee Ann did not survive the surgery.
I say "tragically"... and yes, her death at the too-young age of 45 is devastating to her husband and two young daughters, her family, our church family, and all of us who loved Lee Ann. But Lee Ann would be the first to dispute my use of the word "tragically," as it was anything but tragic for her as she has now joined her royal family for an eternity in Heaven with her Savior and King.
Lee Ann loved life and lived it with spunk and gusto. (In fact, nearly all the photos I have of Lee Ann are silly ones, a few of which I'm sure she would not appreciate me publishing, so I chose carefully). But she loved Jesus more, and she shared her faith with everyone who was blessed to cross her path. What a story-teller she was, with a gift for making Bible stories come to life as she told them to children! When I was director of our church Vacation Bible School for several years, Lee Ann always asked me to allow her to teach the most important station of all, the Bible story. Even as her health began to fail her and energy levels were low, her spirit never was and she continued serving wherever our church needed her. She brought the after-school program "Good News Club" into our local elementary, growing it to nearly 200 children who heard the gospel message every week. Her legacy will live on in the hearts of countless children with whom she has shared Jesus, prayed with and for, and presented Bibles to.
I first met Lee Ann when her older daughter Hannah (who is now an 8th-grader) was just a baby that Kim and I would watch in the church nursery on Sunday mornings. When Ashley (wearing the Star Wars mask, now in 6th grade) was born, one day Lee Ann surprised me by asking if I would be willing to watch baby Ash on Tuesday mornings so she could continue to go to Bible Study Fellowship.
That was when our friendship really took off. I became part of their extended family for awhile, weekly watching Ashley and sometimes Hannah too. I came to love those girls and their family, and as they are growing up I see so much of their mother in each of them. We had many long conversations about parenting and marriage, Lee Ann asking me for advice and laughing together at crazy situations life throws at us.
Not the least of which are health crises. When I was diagnosed with cancer, despite her own medical problems, Lee Ann was ready with prayer and encouragement, and she sent me scripture cards which I placed where they would bring me comfort and encouragement every day. Each time I read them, I thought of my sweet friend, and since I've recovered those cards have been sent on to encourage others facing challenges. The one admonishing "Do not be afraid, for I am with you always" I sent back to Lee Ann a few months ago as she shared she was facing a future heart transplant.
Lee Ann was not afraid. Scared, yes, because uncertainty is always a little scary. But not truly afraid because she knew where her future home is.
Everyone who knew Lee Ann loved her, and we all know without a doubt she is very much alive and well on the other side of eternity, singing and dancing and savoring her new life in Paradise.
God has richly blessed me for knowing her the few short years she was in my life, and I know I will laugh with her again someday.
As a daughter of The KING, Princess Lee Ann is an heir to His promises and she's living out her Heavenly reward.
She is truly royalty.