Her last letter to me was postmarked July 5, and I looked forward to responding, but by the time I was able to, it was too late.
Our family’s late summer vacation also had complicated things; I didn’t learn of Florence Jordahl’s Aug. 18 passing until mid-September.
The notification came from her family — not handwritten in beautiful scrawl as all her letters had been, but computer-composed, and, naturally, sent at her request. She’d wanted her family to communicate with those she’d kept in touch with after her death, they’d written.
No surprise there, for the people in her life mattered so much. She made sure they knew it, and also knew about Jesus. She was not embarrassed to proclaim her trust in God wherever, and however, she went.
I first met Florence through her lovely letters, which I wrote about in June. I wish I could find now where I tucked away that first note; it was the start of something special.
Receiving an actual “snail mail,” personalized letter these days seems treat enough, but additionally, this one had been written by a woman in her 90s. She wanted to thank me for my column and further encourage me, and the words of hope transmitted therein seemed to come alive in my hands.
Thinking about the trouble she’d gone through to reach out, I had to reach back. So I made arrangements to meet her at her home at Bethany on 42nd, and was joyfully received.
Sharing with a friend later about Florence’s convictions, she suggested I feature Florence in the paper. Indeed, I thought, Florence and her fire for the Lord would be most fitting for this space.
I couldn’t have known that just two months after I sat in Florence’s presence for the interview, she’d be in the presence of the King of Kings. And though only God knows for sure the contents of his court, there’s little doubt to me of Florence’s current whereabouts.
When the news of her passing finally did reach me, I was stunned and saddened. Yes, she’d just reached 95, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock, and yet it did.
The thing is, Florence didn’t present herself as a dying woman. Her spirit was so visibly overflowing that it spilled into every exchange, each word she poured onto her lined papers and floral stationery. Florence oozed the love of God and lived with such intention and clarity that one sensed only an aliveness when speaking with her.
Her last letter brought thanks for the article. “I know it’s all from God,” she wrote, pointing, as always, to the one who’d called her into life. She then apologized for the delay, explaining that she’d been “very busy answering thank-you notes or from those who have experienced the Holy Spirit.”
This was Florence’s deal — searching out and connecting with those who needed to know the life-giving message of the Gospel, and absorbing all she could from others who fed her soul.
She delighted in the thought that so many had seen the article — not for her glory, but God’s. The piece had allowed her one last big shout-out to Jesus, which greatly pleased her; again, not for self-aggrandizement, but because of its potential to draw others into God’s tender and merciful heart.
Not only was she keenly observant about God’s ways, Florence noticed everything around her. For instance, she commented in her last note about how impressed she’d been by the photographer’s movements — his crouching down low to capture her hands just right. “I talk with my hands … it really added that touch.”
Her closing made me chuckle. She admitted that after I’d left that day, she’d begun regretting having allowed the interview, questioning her openness. But then quickly, she surmised, “It was the devil. I told him to get out.”
Ah Florence, if anyone could send the devil scurrying, it would be you and the stunning light you bore. I’ve said before, and will again now, that I want to be Florence when I grow up. I really do.
The envelope from her family also included a worship aid from her funeral, where, they mentioned, the article had been displayed. How happy it makes me to know the story of Florence’s life’s movements had been told, and shared, both prior to — and now after — her death.
I smiled, too, to see the songs chosen — likely by Florence herself: “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “Living for Jesus,” and “It’s No Secret (What God Can Do).”
“It’s no secret what God can do, what He has done for others, He will do for you. With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you. It’s no secret what God can do.”
To the family of Florence Jordahl, thank you for sharing this precious little lady with us. Her light shines on and on. And now to live in a way that we might all see her, and Jesus, on the other side.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Oct. 8, 2016.]