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Eulogy to Anne Nixon

Anne Nixon is my Mum. Next to my Dad, and my wife, she was my best friend—a woman in her 98th year, the most exciting Mother a person could ever want to have.

(I’m a fortunate man. In the course of my time, I’ve had a close relationship with two women.  One gave existence to my life. The other gave life to my existence.)

Teenager Anne Lindsay landed in Sydney from Scotland on Jan. 26th, 1924, and within seven years, on Nov. 5th, 1930, she became Mrs. Anne Nixon, and consequently, two years later, my birth mother.  I’m grateful.  She was the source of my earliest recognition of life, from the simplest part of family relationships to the magnificence of a Church choir, the SS orchestra, symphony, the virtue of work and the priceless nature of existence, with it’s values and purposes. She even thought I did good as a boy soprano, when I sang in a high range, “Where’ ere you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade!” Whatever that means.

My mother was not quite perfect. She even let us see her flaws. She showed me mine. I’ve enjoyed my mother for 73-years. The cord is cut, but no wise mother would have it any other way.  Good mothers teach us to depend upon ourselves, upon our God, and upon others; upon various life support systems, and we’re better for it.

She hated frauds, pomp, haughty, secrets, unclean places, careless mothers,  rebellious children, dust, politics, alcohol, late starts and late endings, unironed clothes, business meetings, tobacco, hot summers and private jokes. She loved people, prayer meetings, knitting, Dad’s friends, laughter, cooking, Bethshan, grandchildren, Gideons and reading her Bible.

We’d sit and talk.  In later years, together, then, on the phone at night. She’d not say very much to stimulate your thinking until she heard that most people talk about other people, but great people talk about concepts and purpose;  and every now and again she’d drop in a surprise comment. “Do you reckon?” or, “Ok, if you know so much, and you’ve been to so many places, what’s the latest book you’ve read this week?”  No, she didn’t regret our experiences;  after all, she was the first world traveler in our family; and when she found her home here, she’d just make sure travel didn’t go to our head.

She always had a way of changing the family dynamics.  Her philosophy was simple; “If you won’t listen to my stories, don’t bore me with yours.” We’d try to listen, and if we couldn’t find time to do that, she’d think out loud and mutter, “O let’s get into an argument instead.”  And once made up, her mind was concrete!  Her hold on Christian faith was immovable.

In the hospital we reminded her she’d had an operation; pin in her hip; she repeated, “Have I?” I said, “Mum, have I ever given you occasion to doubt?” Reply: “I’ve tried to always think well of you, but it’s been very hard!” Much laughter.

She made sure the family kept talking about her, for whatever reason. Then she’d act like she was thinking, “I’m an old lady, you know, and no one is interested in me!”  Often she’d actually say it.

Since she turned 80 she’d keep us guessing.  She’d lament no one called on her, and she couldn't even get out to the Gideon Ladies prayer meeting, or any of the other functions going on.

Or the family? Dan and Rachel and Caleb drove an hour to see her often, and she would be out.  Just like others would do. Then an hour drive back home.  Next day she complained they should have waited till she got home from the hairdresser. “Just wait till you’re 92 and see how you like it!”

But my brother Max would phone me and say, “Is Mum with you?  She’s not answering her phone.” Kept us guessing, she did. Next day we’d comment she might have died, and she’d say, “Of course not, I was at the Ladies Aid.”

She often worried she’d die alone. Didn’t like that idea much till Martha said, “Why not Mum?  You won’t be here!” She liked that. She told every one that no one loved her.  It was a tactic to get our attention.

At 92 she was in the congregation at the Glenfield UCA. Martha was sitting next to her. As I recounted an incident or two from my childhood, she’d mumble her corrections to be sure we got the story straight, and once, in a loud stage-whisper said, “He was an incorrigible child then, and he’s not got any better since!” But she made sure she was stone deaf when I’d suggest mid-talk, “That last comment was from my dear saintly Mum!”

She hardly remembered things from last week, but never forgot 60 years ago. For a 2pm pick up she’d be phoning at 9 asking why we were late!  But what Max or Eunice sang at the Sunday School Anniversary in 1946, she’d name that tune, and ask them to sing it again.

Mother never gave up on trying to make us better people! Prayed for us, she did, name by name, every day. Right down to her 11 grandchildren, and the 22 great-grand-children, and even for the unborn great-great-grandchildren, yet to come. She kept asking, “Who paid for this lunch? Max, did you pay for this?”  Martha said, “Mum, you’re in the hospital, and this is part of the package. It’s paid for by the government.” A doctor walked by just then, so she called out, “Are you from the government?”    

She’d read the Old Testament every day and drop off in either the genealogies of Numbers, or in one of the cities of refuge! Psalm 23 and Isaiah 56 were her favourites. I was forever always grateful that even though she’s drift off in church on a warm Sunday morning, she seemed to stay wide awake during my talks!  Just so she could repeat her pet line,  “He was an incorrigible child.”   Then I’d hear about it for the next month.

At her 90th; that party, remember?  She was unwell, but, with a steel will, she smiled through it, then we took her off to hospital.  The Doc said, “You’ve had fluid around the lungs, and now we’ve found the answer, it’s pneumonia.”  She said, “Of course, I knew it all the time, and I wonder why you didn’t find out sooner?”

In her last days she was still planning what she’d do for her 100th, and into her next century.  She mumbled in her confusion in the hospital, “Those people are coming to Church, but they have to be converted!”  That’d stop us in our tracks.  “It’s no good if they’re not converted”.  She had quite a time getting the world saved.  Did she have her priorities in order? What do you think?

We’d often quote a favourite verse, and she would pick it up and complete it. She’d say her own grace before meals. Specially, Psalm 23, and “The Lord bless thee and keep thee…and the Lord make His face to shine upon thee...and give thee His peace.” Her Benediction.

“They keep talking about my oxygen. I think they’ve given me too much of it. This puree food is boring; you know, with all that kitchen food, you think they at least give me a chop!”  “Mum, it’s not on your diet.”

From the US, Jo Ann Barnett wrote: “I sit weeping as Mum struggles for life as we know it.  Even knowing she is being well cared for and relatively pain free takes nothing from the fact that I wish I could just once more hug her and let her know just how much she has meant to me through the years. Part of me knows she will be far better with her Lord than here now, but the world will be all the poorer for losing this saint, who so readily accepted me into her home and heart.  I would never be able to put into words how much she means to me.”

Proverbs 20:20 is true for each of us, and that is, “Honour your father and your mother, that you may live long in the land."

Using positive words, the Commandment stresses that there's advantage in valuing those who gave us birth and early care; the other Proverbs about a curse on those who do not, using negative words, agrees.

Revelation 11:12 reports: “They heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.”  And they went up to heaven.

Mother Anne Nixon, aged 97 years, has heard that loud voice from heaven. For her, this call up to heaven was the subject of joyful anticipation. She thought she felt Harold’s breath on her neck; he was calling her.  Instead of dreading the time when she was to leave this world, she was panting for the hour of her emancipation.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon reminds us that we are not called down to the grave, but up to the skies. His words, “Our heaven born spirits should long for their native air.”

Yet the celestial summons should be the object of patient waiting. Our God knows best when to bid us ‘come up here.’ Patience must have her perfect work.

Someone said that music is the language of heaven, and certainly heaven is the subject of much of our music. Choose one of your favourite hymns about heaven, and sing it with all your might, all your days. Yet, remember, God ordained with accurate wisdom the most fitting time for the redeemed to abide below.  Hers was 97 full and worthy years.  Surely, if there are no regrets in heaven, the saint might mourn that we do not live longer here to do more good. Whether our Master shall say ‘go’ or ‘stay,’ let us be equally pleased.

Mum Nixon was a good example; “Don’t be content to stay in your comfortable surroundings here rather than fly.” Better to enjoy the presence of your Saviour for all of eternity.

“I was supposed to speak at a meeting at the church where the new aboriginals were going to come, and they didn’t wake me up in time.” It was a dream, but she felt like she’d let them down, and wanted others to take her place. She calls us to just do that; be ready at any moment to give answer and a reason for the hope and faith within us.

Great granddaughter Belinda spent the last evening with her. (She had told Martha she felt Dad’s soft warm breath on her neck; calling her).

Then, when Belinda read Psalm 23 again, she finished it with the words, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Les Nixon— June 22, 2005

Photo of the Les Nixon family at their 50th Jubilee Celebration at Martha's home Church,  Mt. Tabor Church, Salem, Indiana, June 5, 2005, where they were married in 1955. Includes Les and Martha, David, Michael, Danielle and Matthew, Jonathan and Elizabeth, Daniel and Caleb (Rachel at work in Sydney at the time), Graham and Jo Ann Barnett, Michelle Riabkoff, Elaine and Catherine Lomas.

More about Anne Nixon

In a nine-year flashback, and in hindsight, the circumstances around the family when Nanna died in May 2005 at Glenfield NSW, are unique. She drew her last breath, with great grand daughter Belinda at her side. And Eunice. She whispered, 'in the house of the Lord forever'. Dad Harold Nixon died 12-years before.

Nanna had been fading, in full-time hospital-care, aged 97. Max and Helen, Daniel Rachel and Caleb and Les and Martha said goodbye in her room, and had left for Salem Indiana for the L & M 50th Anniversary, from June 5, 1955. A hundred family and friends came to Salem from everywhere. Then, they left Indiana, for home, when Eunice phoned with the sad news.

Martha and Les were on United Airlines between Chicago and Los Angeles. The cell phone rang from Eunice in the taxi going to Jon and Beths. Daniel was with David in Orlando, Florida. Max and Helen were together with Jo Ann and Graham Barnett, at Niagara Falls, on the way to Toronto, and Sydney. It was a shock at the time, but not unexpected.

Daniel fell into nostalgia with David and his adult children—Nannas great-grand children in Orlando. In the silent moments, 4-year-old great-grandson Caleb, said he wished he could see Nanna again. His photo at 2, with them both holding on to her walking cane (at Springwood), is a classic. Grandson David kept all these things in his heart, and mourned, too....

The LA taxi-driver acted angrily with Les for such a short fare. After the bags left the car at the hotel, Les paid the $20 and tip, and mentioned the call was from Sydney, and said our aged Godly mother had just died in Australia, and all was OK. Suddenly the driver promptly crossed himself, changed into remorse, and began a long Mexican lament on our behalf. Les took a few minutes to explain, while the bell boy took Martha to the room. With a suitably contrite heart, and in great respect, the taxi-driver bowed his head, confessed Jesus as his Savior in a multi-lingual prayer and agreed to join a Bible study group he knew. We thought: "Nanna would understand that, and be pleased." And God.

Jon and Beth Les and Martha met at the fancy restuarant in the marina across the street, where we'd sailed in a yaught with them the year before. Jon found a quiet corner, and we ordered, as this was our main meal for the day. It looked pleasing, but no one ate a morsel. Two hours later it was stone cold. We'd spent the time in lament, encouragement and a prayer of praise—and pushed the the food aside. Jon had left the Arncliffe house aged 3, (for Georges Hall), but never forgot the visits, overnights, birthdays and Christmasses together with Nanna and Poppa. The fancy food just didn't fit. Memories were good, and they never ended. Next day Les and Martha flew to Sydney.

And Max and Helen at Niagara Falls were similar. Jo Ann always said, that in 1956 Nanna ushered her into the Aussie way, and was a real Mum for seven years—and the human grief was deep. From the uncertain tent years and constant travel, rehearsing the Hammond Organ in the yard studio at the Arncliffe house, Graham's courting visits, Nanna at home while Jo Ann soared off with the Graham Crusades meetings, and coming home, normal. Then, the 1963 Wedding from there. It revived unusual days with Nanna at the centre, they chose to remember with gratitude.

Had all been at home in Sydney, the relationships between distant family members would have not been quite the same. Unplanned, but seemed—perfectly right. Nanna Ann Nixon was still doing what she did best; holding the family together. After all, she was the first world traveler in our generation that started our generation off. And 97 years later, it seemed all the more right, and precious.

A few days later in Sydney with the family present, Anne Nixon was laid to rest next to her Harold of 63-years, at Sydneys Woronora Cemetry, beneath a lovely river gum tree. The voice is silent, the old house is no longer there, but the memory of caring fussy loving fingers is as sweet as ever.

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