JACQUIE

I was cleaning out my office this evening, and found a poly enveloped labeled “JACQUIE.” I stopped in my tracks and took a deep breath before opening the flap.

I have known Jacquie for many years. Her husband, Mike, was the pastor at our home church (Center United Methodist) when Matt was a child (before I attended). When Matt was going through ordination, Mike was his mentor. Jacquie took great care in connecting with me whenever we were together. Mike was appointed to First UMC in Vincennes after his time at Center, so when Matt got moved here in 2017, Mike and Jacquie were very quick to reach out and tell us how excited they were about our move.

Their family loved their time spent in Vincennes. The parsonage to which we were about to move was their favorite home, and they had so many wonderful things to say about the town and the church members we would soon meet. Jacquie connected us to a doctor and his wife in our new church who assisted us in getting established with a pediatrician and physician in our new town. After we moved, Jacquie began sending me notes of encouragement and prayer. 2017 was a rough year for our family: Henry was born, Hannah was so young, I was dealing with postpartum depression, our parents were having health issues, my grandmother’s health was rapidly declining, and now we were moving far from everyone we loved. Soon after our move, our world was rocked when Matt’s best friend Brad died suddenly. Not long after that my grandmother passed, another friend passed, a dear church member passed, and more and more I felt like waters were rising around me and I was having trouble staying afloat.

Through it all, Jacquie continued to send me notes. Handwritten letters scrawled on simple paper. She would recount a fun memory from living in Vincennes. She would talk about going to Charlie’s for candies and to Lic’s for Choco-cremes (chocolate-covered ice cream balls). She would tell us about where her family would sled on snow days. And she would even ask if our yard still had those pesky moles (it does). Each letter would always include words of encouragement. Words of prayer. Words of support and love. And almost every envelope would include a scrap of fabric cut with pinking shears into the shape of a heart.

I began to treasure these little bits of mail. As I felt I was starting to tire from treading water in the flood of change and grief, her notes became little life preservers to me. Buoys upon which I could rest for a moment and catch my breath knowing that someone was praying for us. My kids would often steal the little fabric hearts and play with them. Often they would be used as tiny doll blankets or washcloths in the play kitchen. Every time I saw a piece of “Jacquie Love” it would remind me of my friend who was thinking of us. I would smile and take a breath and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. At some point I decided to gather these notes and hearts and keep them together in a poly envelope for safe keeping.

Eventually the flood waters began to recede and life got easier. We felt more and more at home in Vincennes, and the grief of our losses began to feel smoother. Less jagged. Jacquie’s notes continued at a slower pace, but they still came. She would tell me how fun it was to watch our updates on Facebook so she could see our children grow. She would comment on any pictures of the house, and tell us about how Hannah’s room used to be her Anna’s room, and even sent pictures of how the house used to look once. She was cheering me on as I would post selfies of my workouts at the YMCA. She was praying for us when my aunt died suddenly. She was thinking of us when Hannah and Henry started school. And she and Mike even sent us money to treat ourselves to dinner when my father had to be admitted to a nursing home. Her support never waivered and was always so sweet. I continued adding Jacquie’s notes to my envelope.

Jacquie’s life came to an abrupt end in early November of 2021. She was struck by a vehicle during her morning walk, and her injuries were to severe. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. Church members began calling and emailing with stories about Jacquie. Clergy spouses were posting on the private Facebook group we have saying how much they had always appreciated Jacquie and her support and her notes.

In my self-centered mind, I had never even considered that Jacquie was sending letters of prayerful support and encouragement to other people. I shamefully admit that my first reaction was one of disappointment. I thought I was special! That emotion lasted only for a second as a realization washed over me: I wasn’t the special one in this instance. Jacquie was the one who was special. Her love and thoughtfulness and prayerful heart were so special. And she was special to so many of us!

Since that moment I have wondered: How many little fabric hearts are floating around out there in the world? How many handwritten letters scratched onto white paper are folded neatly and stored for safe-keeping? How many pieces of “Jacquie Love” are people holding onto so they can remember our dear friend each time we see them?

Jacquie’s letters have had such a huge impact on me. When we learned of Jacquie’s passing, I told Matt, “All these years I knew in the back of my heart and mind that Jacquie was praying for us, and and cheering for us as we walked the tightrope of ministry. Now it feels like our safety net is gone.”

At first glance, Jacquie’s notes are nothing very special. Scraps of fabric. Plain sheets of white paper. Solid white envelopes. No fancy stationery. No calligraphic penmanship. And yet these plain items bear witness to the love and care Jacquie had for all who were fortunate enough to receive them. Jacquie’s love for family and friends; Her heart for supporting fellow clergy spouses; Her devotion to the ministry she shared with Mike; Her love of nature and art and movement. All of these amazing things were neatly packaged in uncomplicated trappings and mailed to people who needed to know they were not alone. May we all be so bold as to simply love and encourage those in our orbit in such a steadfast way.

Jacquie’s blog can be found here. I highly recommend you read it. She was a wonderful writer.

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