When I came to Burlington, Ann Parks was a member of the Zion Church Consistory and a member of the Burlington City Council. Ann had built a reputation for community service and interest in progressive causes; chief among them was her campaign to open a refuge for the victims of domestic violence, which came to fruition as the Battered Women’s Shelter. She and a woman of similar energy, Marcia Walker, also on both Consistory and Council, and several other church members active in community life formed a powerful team for public good, the likes of which I had seldom seen.
Within a few months Ann received the troubling news that she had cancer, and she entered into treatment with the same determination that she exercised in other matters. She had a family—a husband, two sons who were nearing adulthood, and a daughter who was nearing adolescence. She had public responsibilities and goals that were notable, and she had a strong desire to overcome the disease that was threatening her life.
Months of treatment passed with signs of hopefulness. Then came the finding that the treatment had ceased to be effective, and something else would be needed. I met Ann in the hospital shortly after that discouraging news. I don’t remember exactly what I said, probably something to the effect that I was sorry to hear that the cancer was spreading again. I do remember her immediate response, “I’m not done yet!”
She definitely put me in my place. She was not ready to accept bad news and yield to it. Plenty of people needed her, and she had plenty of things to motivate her to keep going.
Unfortunately the cancer overcame her within a few weeks in spite of her determination. Her memorial service was held at the large central United Methodist Church, which had more space than Zion for the crowd that would attend, and its pastor was a better-known public figure to host the service. He did invite me to speak a few words as her pastor, and Ann herself had provided the theme.
Ann had been right, after all, to say, “I’m not done yet!” She knew that many things remained to be done in the agendas she had chosen to serve, or that had chosen her. Even though she was no longer there to do the work, anyone who counted themselves among her family, her friends and her associates, knew that they needed to carry on with the same heart and determination that Ann had shown.
If we have a calling at all, it is a calling to do something larger than we are by ourselves, and it is often a calling to be engaged in something that is larger than one lifetime can accomplish. It was Ann’s, and it is ours.