Robyn is elsewhere – what a way to go

There was an angel at the bottom of the bed as she died. Her daughter saw the angel welcome her as she breathed her last.

Sounds like a Mills and Boon doesn’t it? Yet this was relayed to me in an email after Robyn died. I believe the story is worth telling because there are amazing people in our lives, most of whom will never be recognised with an AO, or as Parent Of The Year. Robyn was one of them.

I first met Robyn when her husband Harold came to work with us some two decades ago. Harold had a unique talent in design and made a huge contribution to the business. Harold was restless. He was a Christian of firm belief and had inside an awareness of the spiritual world which ran deep. One day he gave notice. He and Robyn were going to “live by faith” and work south of Sydney. To those outside the Christian experience, “live by faith” is where the couple will exercise a “ministry” to other people of counselling, healing, preaching and believe that God will provide what they need, in the way of gifts from other believers.

And so they did, for some years as I remember. Then Harold contacted me and said he and Robyn were going to India. Same idea but they were going to live in poverty and establish churches amongst the poor. Now I’m a Christian and I’ve run churches but I’m also a businessman and a realist. Privately, I’m thinking it’s nuts.

Off they go, someone provided an airfare and the next we know, they are living on the outskirts of an Indian city. The most amazing things start to happen. In the next decade, this quiet self-effacing couple establish home churches throughout the surrounding districts. Indian. Self supporting. Totally within the prevailing culture.

This was not imperialist evangelism, it was a couple with a vision, seeking to give what they saw as good spiritual news to the poor, dispossessed and alienated. They had no huge established missionary organisation behind them. Just the God in whom they believed and themselves.

Harold was the visionary teacher, encourager and pastoral genius. Robyn could have lived in his shadow but whatever power was with them, settled in Robyn in the form of a healer. In the Christian sacred writings, there are many instances of Jesus and his immediate followers making sick people – both mentally and physically ill – well in an instant. It appears that Robyn had this extraordinary gift.

Sitting in the comfort of my office, I would get these unbelievable emails, telling of healings and spiritual events which were so foreign to me as to be from another time or another planet. It brought on a sense of inadequacy and guilt. Did I not believe in their God? How many people had I healed in any sense? I had practiced my advertising craft and sold things but in the eternal things had I done anything?

In the middle of all this came the nasty news that Robyn had cancer. They flew back to Australia (if my memory serves me) about five or six years ago to get medical opinion and after consultation, decided that God would heal her. I am left more than incredulous. “Get the chemo, zap in the radiation,” was my private response but I did not understand the dimensions of their faith in their God.

Back they went to India. She was healed and declared clear of any symptoms. So their work amongst the poor went on. It seemed to grow and grow. They came home two years ago and we had coffee with them. Robyn was radiant.

Then, just recently, only a very little while recently – the symptoms returned. They flew home. It appeared that it only took two weeks for the cancer to run its course. This time there was no miracle, except…

In those last moments of grief, separation and anxiety, to Robyn’s daughter an angel appears at the foot of the bed, to escort her mother into a place beyond this. Do I believe? Absolutely. Even though my faith is nowhere near theirs, I am convinced that at times God’s world intersects with our world in the most remarkable ways.

There is grief at Robyn’s going. Here and in India. For her family, one of the unsung heroes of Australia has left. Leaving a legacy few will ever match or even appreciate. But as witness of God’s acceptance, a special messenger was sent to welcome her into that world, which for a moment, was near ours. In our moment of passing we should all be so lucky.

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