Do Not Be Afraid

 

Meditation on John 14, Selected Verses

In Memory of Ivy Catrow

Oct. 7, 1923-Oct. 11, 2019

Custer Chapel, The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

Oct. 15, 2019

5-19-08 sewing Belle Velma Ivy

Ivy Catrow, on the far right, sewing a baby blanket in the sewing circle at The Presbyterian Church.

 

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”…

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

***

Soon after I arrived to serve The Presbyterian Church in January, Pat Miller said, “I have someone I want you to meet. Her name is Ivy.”  I think Pat may have driven me to her house the first time I visited, because Ivy’s house, which she and her carpenter husband built years ago, is on a country road. And if you have never been there, it might be difficult to find. You have to watch for it. Also, the house is kind of down in a holler, so don’t pull into the steep driveway. You won’t want to back out of that. Just park on top by the side of the road.

Yes, going to visit Ivy was an adventure, but surely not anything like the adventures dear Ivy experienced in her lifetime. I enjoyed many visits with Ivy after that first wonderful visit. I was welcomed into her home, offered a comfy chair and pop from the fridge. I loved hearing Ivy’s stories.  She had a way with words, and a musical, lilting voice. Having a British accent, though she had lived in Coshocton 73 years, made her stories of long ago and far away even more exotic.

Born in London in the 1920s, she loved her family, her Lord, her country and queen. Air raids became a way of life for her family during WWII; most families had underground shelters in their backyards. Ivy and her brother hated to go the shelter. “Sometimes we would hide under the kitchen table, instead,” Ivy said when she was interviewed for our church’s 195th anniversary, “and our mom would get so upset.” Her daughter, Deb, remembers Ivy telling the story of the time when she was the only one to remain in a London movie theater after an air raid siren went off; she didn’t want to miss the 1939 American epic Gone With the Wind. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that movie on the big screen, either. Angels watched over Ivy and her family when a bomb fell close to their home, causing their windows to blow out; no one was injured.

While Ivy’s father and brother fought in the war, Ivy served with the Women’s Land Army, a civilian organization more commonly known as Land Girls. The Land Girls were placed with farms that needed workers and farm machinery operators. The young women did all the labor that the men, called to serve in the war, would normally do. They kept the troops and the country fed.

Serving as a Land Girl, Ivy was able to stay close to her mother and younger sister, at first. As the war went on, Ivy’s mother and sister were evacuated from London to Cornwall, the westernmost part of the Southwest Peninsula of the island of Great Britain.

Ivy met George Catrow, a 1936 graduate of Coshocton High, when she was working as a Land Girl. The farm where she worked was near the airfield where he was stationed. He served as a sergeant in the US Army 29th Air Disarmament Squadron. After they knew each other for 18 months, George wanted Ivy to marry him in England. Ivy said, “No,” because she had heard many horror stories of young girls marrying American soldiers and then the men would return to the States, and they wouldn’t see them again. She told him to go back home and write for her if he still wanted to get married.

George made it home to Coshocton for Christmas 1945, and George wrote her, she said, every other day. In October 1946, Ivy took a train from Paddington Station to a ship at Southampton. She was so excited when she saw the RMS Queen Elizabeth, which had served as a troop ship in Feb. 1940. This was her maiden voyage as an ocean liner. She was well stocked with food, which was a treat for Ivy, since food had long been rationed in England.

“There were four of us girls in my cabin,” she said, “all GI fiancees, and all of them were seasick, except for me.” She got up at 5 a.m. to see the Statue of Liberty, a memory she would treasure.

Ivy arrived in Coshocton on Nov. 12, 1946. The Rev. Kiskaddon married them 10 days later in the parsonage, which was later torn down to make room for the Christian Education addition and this chapel in 1959. Ivy had to get special permission from Judge Ross at the Courthouse for their marriage license because she wasn’t a citizen. Ivy would later join a Sunday school class in our church that Judge Ross and his wife, Margaret, also attended. George and Ivy joined the church Jan. 30, 1949. Both of their children, Greg and Deb, would be baptized and married here. As a new bride in Coshocton, Ivy felt warmly embraced by the women in our community of faith. “There’s an overall feeling of love at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church,” she said. “I have so many friends here. My heart is very close to this church.”

Over the years, Ivy, who loved to cook, sew, knit, and garden, was involved in our sewing group and the prayer fellowship group, and served on mission and fellowship committees. After being so impressed, she said, with the bereavement dinner when George died in 1995, she got involved helping with those dinners and enjoyed doing that for many years.

Just as Ivy was warmly embraced, Ivy warmly embraced me as the new pastor here. Every time I visited her–at home, in rehab or in the hospital–she would introduce me to whoever came into the room. And I would get some very surprised looks as she would say, with pride and joy in her voice, “This is my pastor at The Presbyterian Church. I want you to meet Pastor Karen.”

Ivy would share her stories and health struggles when asked, but she also wanted to hear my story. I felt comfortable sharing because she was a great listener. She was curious and caring; she was interested in what we were interested in. She was an encourager. She always asked me about my family.

She was a woman of faith, who appreciated home communion when she could no longer come to worship. She missed her church. When I saw Ivy on Thursday, Pat and I brought her communion, anointed her with oil, and said a prayer for healing and wholeness. She told me then that she was ready. She didn’t know why the Lord was taking so long, because she was ready to be with Him. She had been strong for so long, even sitting up in a chair, though it required a great effort, on her 96th birthday on Monday, which she celebrated in the hospital.

Like the Lord talking with his dearest friends, before he went home to be with the Father, she had instructions and encouragement to her loved ones she was leaving behind. She chose the music and scripture for the service that would witness to her faith and comfort those who mourn.

She wanted us to hear a message of God’s love and presence with us always, though we will have trials and struggles. We pass through the waters and are not overwhelmed, walk through fire, unharmed. We are assured that the God who created us has called us by name. We are precious in His sight! We are redeemed. We are forgiven for all our sins.

Like the disciples, who didn’t know how they would continue on—or if they even could— if Jesus were to die, we needn’t be afraid when we lose our loved ones or when we ourselves are facing death. We have the promise of everlasting life with Him that begins in this world. Christ sent His Holy Spirit, the Advocate, so that He may abide in us and we abide in Him. Christ’s Spirit will continue to strengthen and teach us that we may live according to His will and love as He loved.

I saw Christ in Ivy. I saw His light and felt his love and peace, which he gives to all who open their hearts to receive them. The miracle of knowing Christ is that the nearer we draw to the Lord, the more we want others to draw nearer to Him and experience the same joy. We want others to know a peace that we struggle to explain. A peace that truly goes beyond human logic. A peace that stays with us when we walk through dark valleys, grieving the loss of our loved ones, when we don’t know how we can live without them tomorrow.

Christ speaks to his followers in every time and place when he tells us to let go of the burden of fear. Fear is not God’s will for you!

      “Peace I leave with you,” he says.“My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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