This is a bit of a departure from the usual topic but hopefully you will read and enjoy...
We first met Sister Keck when we moved to Lake Mary in September of 2001 and we were assigned to attend the book study in her home. I must admit I was less than thrilled to be sent there. In addition to Sister Keck there were a few other older ones in the group. I remember thinking to myself "great, I'm stuck with the old-timers" or something along those lines. Little did I realize at that time just how much I would come to care for her.
Going to her home for the first time was an experience. We had heard a few whispers, "Oh; you're going there for the book study..." so we weren't sure what to expect. We found her home to be charming and immaculate, almost like an over sized doll house. We quickly learned the rules; shoes off, no bare feet on the carpet, after the study help put away the chairs, etcetera. Nothing too difficult but Sister Keck had a certain way and she let you know what was expected. The last week of each month she, as many homes did, had a goody night-some refreshments after the study had ended. This was held on the back patio and though we were usually tired after a long day of work we enjoyed these occasions as it gave us a chance to get to know our friends a little bit better.
As she was getting older Sister Keck was no longer driving at night time and would get a ride with another sister to the hall on Tuesday nights. In time this sister moved to another congregation and Sister Keck would need a ride to the meetings. I remember asking her "How will you get to the hall? she said "Oh, I'll find a ride with someone". I offered to take her with our family and she seemed a bit hesitant. I reassured her I would be there early and said : "Well, we live just down the road, we'll come get you." I had the feeling she didn't quite believe me and sure enough about 6:00 Tuesday evening the phone rang. "Brother Windham..." the voice said, "...this is Sister Keck." I replied to her "no, Sis, we didn't forget about you we'll be there by 7pm." So began an arrangement that would last for several years, taking sister Keck to and from the meetings on Tuesdays and eventually on Sundays as well.
During this point in our lives Suzanne and I were both working full time and feeling "the grind" as I call it. Our typical meeting night we rushed home many times with just enough time to shower, grab a sandwich and go. Study? Preparation? What was that? We would get to Sister Keck's house and be stressed from the day. It was at these moments I truly came to appreciate her. Sister Keck would always have something positive to say. Tuesday was her day in the ministry and she usually had an experience to share about a call or study she had. Often times she would go to visit another one our sisters who was staying in a nursing home and would share tidbits about her visit. Sometimes she would tell us about a particular point she had studied for the meeting and really appreciated. We would dutifully listen to her and often would talk when we got home about how encouraged we were by her remarks. Often times our minds would be racing away with the cares of the day but being around Sister Keck would remind us of what was really important. She made us want to be better students, and focus more on our serving Jehovah.
Over the years we enjoyed associating with her socially as well. A few times our family went to her home on Saturdays to study the Watchtower together. Of course she had some cakes or other treat for us to enjoy afterwards. One year Danielle had dance class and she came to see her perform at the year end recital. On a number of occasions we had invited her to our home to share a meal and she at times would invite us over. One day I remember out of the blue getting a phone call: "Brother Windham..." -she never did address me as "Jonathan"- "...can you come over for a minute?" When we got there to our surprise waiting for us was a strawberry pie! We truly enjoyed her strawberry pies. I always wanted to but never did ask for the recipe. She would always say, it was easy to make but would insist you "had to get the pie crust from Publix" because theirs was the best.
Fast forwarding to 2009 we visited her just before we left to go to the convention in Berlin. We had some photo cards of our family made up to give away to the new friends we would meet. We gave her one, made sure she had arrangements to get to the meetings and bade her goodbye. After we returned we visited again to share our pictures from the trip and as we left her house we saw that our photo card was placed in a niche with pictures of her family. We talked about this among ourselves afterwards and said that we had indeed missed her while we were away and felt a closeness to our sister.
Unfortunately the ravages of old age and failing health began to slow her down. In time she had to go live with her son. One thing about Sister Keck is that she would not miss a meeting. If she didn't come out, it meant she was sick. That never changed even moving into her son's home. When we visited she showed us her room and proudly showed us the phone. She said she would remind her son "to dial in for her" so she would get the meetings by telephone connection. Even though she could not come out she still made her meetings!
Suzanne and I visited her just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving holiday in 2010. We remember her saying that her daughter-in-law was big into family and the holidays. She apparently was making plans for a family celebration for the holidays and Sister Keck was determined not to be a part of it. She related that she just wanted to stay in the room and that the rest of the family could enjoy their holiday together. We remember her relating a conversation the two of them had and she was told that "everyone has to compromise" to which Sister Keck told us "we'll see about that". As Suzanne and I left I remember thinking this is going to be interesting. Not long after that she was moved to a nursing home.
Over the next few months we would call and visit. She would often make remarks about not having much time left or being tired. We couldn't help noticing how frail she seemed. Her determination again showed itself for the memorial of 2011. She wanted to attend but her health would not permit it. In order for her to not miss the celebration, the brothers arranged to conduct a memorial in one of the rooms at her nursing home. After we left our memorial a number of friends went to the second memorial at the nursing home. We were all so happy to see her and she smiled so much. She actually seemed a bit overwhelmed by so many being there. We could tell though she was happy and she made her goal- to be at the memorial!
After we left we stopped to get a hot chocolate on the way home. It was much later in the evening and we saw another family from the congregation at the store. They had asked us why we were still dressed so late and we replied "oh, we just came from the memorial for Sister Keck." They had stunned looks on their faces and we just realized what we had said! "No!", we quickly corrected ourselves and explained what we meant. We all had a good laugh about it and went our separate ways. Sadly though just a few days later she did pass away.
Perhaps because it is again the time of year for the memorial I find myself thinking about Lois Keck. Often my eyes well up with tears but then a smile takes over. I remember her strength and determination. I remember her loyalty, her hospitality and her consistency. Sometimes when people pass away we tend to make them "saints" so to speak, only thinking of the good. She was not perfect to be sure. She had her opinions and let you know them. But she truly loved Jehovah and always would talk about him and have an encouraging word for any who would listen.
We never got to tell Sister Keck of our plans to be Needgreaters. By the time we decided to pursue this course she had become "forgetful" and her health was beginning to fail. I have to think she would have been happy for us, perhaps a bit concerned, but still happy. Although she was not family we miss her dearly and are looking forward to seeing her in the resurrection. When we see her again she will be young, vibrant and healthy. Her hands will no longer be bent and wrinkled from arthritis. She will no longer need to hold onto someone's arm for support or be out of breath after a few short paces. We can tell her about the end of this old wicked system and relate our experiences from the field. Sister Keck had said that when she got into the paradise she wanted to run through a field of flowers in her bare feet. Perhaps I'll join her or just watch her enjoying herself running. Then afterwards, maybe I can get her to show me how to make a strawberry pie.