The death has taken place of Anne Watts, known affectionately to us ‘younger ones’ as Mrs. Watts . She died last Saturday evening at Caherass Nursing Home in Croom aged 88. Her life and testimony were remarkable and in her quiet humble manner she impacted many lives for the Lord whom she loved and served.
Anne grew up in the rich lush countryside of Adare at Tuogh House attending Saint Nicholas’ Church of Ireland and going to the school adjacent to it. Her home life ensured her days outside of school were filled helping out with the daily chores on the farm. Along with her eight brothers and sisters Anne sang in the choir and also got her early knowledge of the Scriptures at the churche’s Sunday School. Around this time the Methodist group in Adare began ‘cottage meetings’ in the area, meeting from house to house for prayer and Bible exposition and Anne went along to these also. At 16 she was' born again' surrendering her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour and taking her first tentative steps in a life long walk of faith. Later at a social event in limerick she spotted Harry and after the interruption of World War Two they started ‘walking out together’. Eventually on a bridge somewhere between Adare and Limerick ,Harry proposed to her and of course she accepted!
Anne’s life was never ‘cosy’ and even in the early stages of their married lives together she was severely tested when her first two babies did not survive. Before the birth of a third child, Anne prayed that she would serve God all the days of her life if the baby was born safely. God answered her plea and Joy was subsequently born a bouncing healthy girl, and Anne went on to honour her promise to God as she served Him with the remainder of her life. Following Joy, Chris was born but again in later years disaster struck, when still a young man he died tragically. Again Anne’s faith must have been severely tested.
Throughout her life she battled debilitating depression, although only those close to her would have known, as she always seemed to maintain her cheerful disposition even when inside she was suffering intense pain. On occasion she would say to me " This terrible blackness comes over me, it’s so hard to describe…"and then inevitably she would conclude,"but praise the Lord, He brought me through. He’s so wonderful you know, I don’t know where I’d be today without Him." And this was Anne’s life’s testimony, she didn’t sail through a charmed life without an earthly care, far from it, but she maintained her trust in God even when He must have seemed far away at times.
I first met Anne Watts at Mallow Street Hall where she was one of the older generation of believers who sat patiently while we new firebrands found our spiritual feet, often awkwardly and with cringe inducing ‘zeal‘. Anne was always an encourager and at a period in my life when I had fallen foul of the fellowship leadership, she always maintained contact and reminded me to ‘keep looking to the Lord‘. With my two friends Gabriel and Tony I was regularly invited over to her home where we fellowshipped over tea and biscuits. Our meetings always concluded with a time of prayer and a song or two.
When her daughter Joy paid tribute to her mothers life at Saint Nicholas' church last Tuesday afternoon ,she summed her mother up in this list of words…FAITH…FLOWERS…NATURE…CREATION…PEOPLE…SUNSETS…NEATNESS…ORDER…PRECISION. Inside Anne’s Bible Joy found over 125 names on a prayer-list, people that her mother prayed for every day of her life ( myself included I’ve no doubt). Many if not all on that list were in the church on that afternoon to pay their respects to this unique woman and her faithful life.
She was an extraordinary woman, gentle of spirit yet strong as steel in the depth of her soul. Despite her many struggles the effect she had on those who knew her was one of joy and encouragement. As a result of her own battles and victories her words did not just console but packed a real punch ,because they came with the power and authority of one who ‘had been there‘. She epitomised the experience that Paul had with the Lord- “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.(2 Corinthians 12:9)
As fitting her mothers passion for flowers, Joy ended her tribute with this story. Anne was forever giving people cuttings and plants and it seemed she was as evangelical about her gardening as she was about her faith! On the day she died Joy received a text message from a couple who been given some begonia plants by Anne. Apparently the secret of successful begonia propagation is to lift the plant as it finishes its blooming, ensuring a healthy flowering for next season. The text simply read “WE LIFTED THE BEGONIAS, THEY’RE ALMOST FINISHED BLOOMING ”Anne Watts has finished her earthly blooming and she is now with her Lord , fully rejoicing in that heavenly realm. At her request Psalm 121 was read at Saturdays Thanksgiving Service, I reprint it here in memory of a stalwart Christian woman who blessed me and so many others even in the abundance of her own trials and testings.
My help comes from the LORD,
He will not let your foot slip—
indeed, he who watches over Israel
The LORD watches over you—
the sun will not harm you by day,
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
the LORD will watch over your coming and going