I have been asked to write about my journey with our beloved Cathey Anderson during her last days and what that experience has taught me. Nobody gets away from the teacher Mrs. Anderson without learning something, am I right?!
To do this, however, I need to go back in time to 1998 when Cathey and I first met. Actually, Allen and I met Cathey’s husband Mark first at Forest Home during a summer Family Camp Estate Planning talk. We were living in Rancho Penasquitos at the time at the end of a cul-de-sac on a very suburban-sized lot. My husband traded some work on the Anderson’s home for Mark’s help with a Trust. Allen and I were happy campers living in Rancho Penasquitos: the kids had tons of friends and we had good neighbors. We were very content. But Allen would come back from having been to the Andersons’ home in Valley Center with this “hospitality on steroids” high. A few months passed and the “kingdom contagiousness” of the Anderson’s was all over us. God moved on our hearts and pretty soon we were opening escrow on three acres in Valley Center.
Talk about feeling vulnerable in a new place! I had one name for all three spaces on the kid’s school emergency contact cards: Cathey Anderson. I hardly knew her, but that would soon change. She and Mark made sure of it. I found myself asking, “Who are these people that flow with such enthusiasm and life like the call of the sea to a sailor’s heart? Who could beckon others to “come and see” with such ease, causing them to do what they would not normally do otherwise?” Friends of Jesus, that’s who.
When we arrived in Valley Center, Mark was there to unload our U-Haul and Cathey soon became the “other mother” to my oldest daughter. We joined a church plant in which they were involved and where we met most of our life’s greatest friends. We went through many hard times together including fires and deaths of students, as well as good times like Egg Day and Ag Day and Western Days. Cathey helped my kids birth pigs and raise chickens. She even grew grapes on the hillsides around her home. When it was time, we helped her prune, pick and stomp grapes to make our own wine. There was ever a dull moment with the Andersons.
Mark and Cathey lived to give extravagantly. Mark took Cathey up Mount Whitney and helped her overcome her fear of heights. When she later got her vision for the Freedom Climb, he supported her while she helped others overcome their fears. They modeled their gifts and talents in all aspects of their lives. I learned a lot along the way, watching them for the past 17 years. Before my eyes they lived these verses in John 15: 12-14:
“This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
They knew the love of Christ and they loved others likewise. I thought they lived a surrendered and sacrificial life before Cathey’s diagnosis. But what I learned from them was even more: how to live for Christ, “as unto death.”
Our Life Group was there with Cathey during the diagnosis, diets and chemo drugs; the pain and Pic Lines and all the prodding; surgeries and sticks and suffering with the after-effects of it all. And yes, there were times of tears. We heard Cath tell of getting to the brink of hope and meeting the Holy Spirit in the depths of the dark night. We heard her in the pit of her physical pain. We heard her when she was brave, bare and raw. Mark was her pillar of strength, faithfully holding it together and they showed us how to live for Christ and die for Christ. I think the saddest words I ever heard her speak were, “the doctor says I will have this drain in my side for the rest of my life.” She was resigned to the will of God. She wanted to believe the prayers would heal her, and ultimately they did, but unto a better healing than just a physical one.
Once she rounded that corner in her mind, once the reality of her “homegoing” set in, she resolved to show us how to die with dignity, the same dignity with which she lived. Don’t get me wrong: she was “fully human.” She struggled to understand a Lord who did not live up to her expectations, but she was Christ’s friend, so she prayed and read herself out of the pit that can be dug with the lie that God is somehow not good, is a withholding God, is one to pull the rug out from underneath us so we should doubt Him. She resigned herself to heaven, and then she lived fully to teach others that this mountain, Cathey’s Mountain, was one she would summit well. Once she wrapped her head around the trail Jesus was taking her on, she couldn’t wait for heaven. She showed us how to fight a good fight, but more than that, she was going to show us all how to end well.
If you attended Cathey’s Celebration of Life you saw she left no detail undone. She made it special for everyone. Her fingerprints were all over it: teacher and kingdom farmer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. Some were even “born again” by the preaching of the Gospel message she made sure was given. That’s a friend of Jesus. That’s “Palace Style.”
Joann Hummel told it best when she recounted a story that day we gathered to celebrate Cathey’s life. She was on a Freedom Climb with Cath, Kilimanjaro. Joann had gotten very sick. Cathey, seeing that Joann could not keep going, arranged for her to get off the mountain on the back of a pony. As she was descending, Joann turned around. Unbeknownst to her there was Cathey following behind that pony on foot, “making sure I got home” I believe were Joann’s words.
I had the immense privilege to “make sure Cathey got home” her last night. It was not hard. Cath and Mark, and really, their whole family, had shown me how to do it, how to surrender as a friend of Jesus. It was easy to follow in their footsteps.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m a wife of twenty-five years, married to Allen, my high school pen pal whom I met at Young Life camp in 1976. We were crowned king and queen that week but took 14 more years to make us man and wife. I’m Mamma to three of my greatest joys in life: my beautiful daughters Kelly, Karrie and Erin. I’m YaYa to equally beautiful joys: my grandbabies Hartleigh, Saila and Navy and the one-on-the-way, the mystery babe who is due on my birthday this year. I’m a nurse by career and calling for the last thirty-four years which makes me “seasoned” with many “smile lines.” Who am I? I am a lover, friend and child of God, and blessed to be a Daughter of The Father’s House.