Nancy Anderson was a woman with "ideas and plans and energy and purpose." Just ask her pastors at First Evangelical Covenant Church.
"I had to maneuver and adjust and be ready for anything with Nancy because Nancy really let me have it as a pastor," First Evangelical Covenant Church Senior Pastor Craig Swanson laughingly told the sanctuary full of Nancy's family and friends during a time of sharing memories at her memorial service on Tuesday morning.
"She'd tell me on Sundays when she was particularly tired, 'I fell asleep this morning,'" Swanson continued. "She'd complain about me, she'd make jokes about me, and I just generally took it. She gave it to me and I smiled and laughed and that was one of our little ways of bonding."
Pastor of Congregational Development Neal Herr echoed Swanson's sentiments. The first time he led the church's traditional service alone, he forgot to ask the congregation to stand during the closing hymn. "Nancy let me have it," said Herr, adding that at the next service he led and most of them thereafter, Nancy would nod her head at him, a special signal she used to remind him not to forget again.
While Nancy's "spitfire," "passionate" and "hysterical" personality will be remembered for years to come, her pastors, family and friends all agreed that the 78-year-old's lasting legacy is her fierce love for others.
"Nancy was a spectacular human being," Swanson said. "What really hit my heart was the way she connected with my kids."
Nancy's impact on Swanson's two children, Scott and Alita, and his wife, Susan, was so great that they designated her "fake grandma." Nancy, always a cheerleader, attended dance shows, sporting and school events, sleepovers, movie nights and holidays with the family.
"Nancy welcomed herself into our lives," Swanson said. "Our lives will be forever marked by 'Fake Grandma,' whose life and presence was anything but fake. She was the real deal."
"She loved me really well," Alita added later during the time of sharing.
Ask anyone in attendance at Nancy's service and they'd tell you their experience of Nancy was the same as the Swanson family's. Nancy's fellow church choir members, First Covenant office staff, other Covenant denomination leaders, family and neighbors remembered her as "always smiling," "so funny" and "vibrant."
"Nancy adopted us and we were like a family," shared a close friend and longtime neighbor at Covenant Village of the Great Lakes. "A lasting memory we can all have of her is her care for people. She believed in Jesus, she trusted Jesus and out of that came her care for others and how she coped with all of life's issues."
Nancy's memorial service reflected her love for Jesus and her love for the Covenant Church. Four Covenant pastors (seven were in attendance) officiated—Rev. Brian Kyle welcomed guests and opened the service, Herr shared readings from the Bible, Rev. Garth McGrath offered a pastoral prayer and Rev. Steve Armfield delivered a message of hope. All noted how deeply connected and devoted Nancy was to the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. "She was a beloved member of this church," Herr said.
Following the service, family and friends gathered for a luncheon to continue sharing stories about the great impact Nancy had on the lives of all who knew her.
These times of coming together to celebrate the life of a loved one—to tell stories, to remember, to cry, to laugh—are incredibly significant and meaningful.
They provide us with an opportunity to grieve in the midst of a caring community, pay respect to the person who has died, reflect on our own lives and start the transition to life without our loved one.