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Our Very Own Earth Angel

Story ID:70
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Biography
Location:Bloomington IL USA
Year:2005
Person:Fannie Bartman
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Our Very Own Earth Angel

Our Very Own Earth Angel
By Nancy Julien Kopp

It's said that God has angels both in Heaven and on Earth. These Earth Angels flap no wings nor do halos shine above their heads. They appear to be perfectly normal human beings, much like you and I, but they're special in subtle and powerful ways.

It's possible that my husband's Aunt Fannie is an Earth Angel. Let's amend that possible to probable. She's been God's messenger and guardian for nine-plus decades.

Fannie Mae was the youngest child of German immigrants who farmed in central Illinois. Fannie, born in the early part of the twentieth century, never had a real name until it was time for her to attend school. She was known as Little Baby in her family and in the small agricultural community where they lived. Little Baby never questioned her nameless state, but joy most likely lit up her face when her papa gave her a genuine name. Fannie was the name of his favorite horse and now his youngest daughter. "You may pick your own middle name," Fannie's papa told her. After much thought, the little girl decided on Fannie Mae.

Fannie's school years were filled with the weddings of seven of her older brothers and sisters. That special someone never appeared for Fannie, but her career as a teacher and school librarian filled much of her adult life. She touched the lives of thousands of children. Her quiet demeanor and kind smile balanced the disciplinarian her job required her to be at times.

Nieces and nephews were a large part of her life away from school. A sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step attracted them like bees to a flower's nectar. Unlike some adults, Aunt Fannie made time to visit with these little relatives of hers. She took them with her to church picnics and county fairs, and she taught them all to love God. This small, plain-looking woman liked a good joke, but when it came to serving the Lord, she was very serious. She wasn't a Sunday Christian. Her home and her heart were filled with scripture passages, and she never hesitated to pass them on to the nieces and nephews. Crosses and pictures of Jesus decorated the walls of her apartment. Most of her visitors felt a sense of peace and joy in Fannie's home. Serving others was her unspoken motto, and it rang loud and clear, as she performed deeds and services many others only thought about. The nieces and nephews listened and watched and absorbed her message about helping others.

In her early retirement years Fannie learned to read braille and spent many volunteer hours transcribing Sunday School lessons for blind people. She traveled to various countries around the world but always found time to write a letter of encouragement to a niece or nephew, when they needed it most.

On one memorable trip to a group of Communist countries, her luggage was lost somewhere between Chicago and London. How could she spend thirty days in foreign countries with only the clothes she wore and her small carry-on bag? It didn't daunt her one bit. She announced to the others on her tour that she would soldier on and continue with the planned itinerary. She washed necessities in hotel sinks and purchased a second blouse to wear with her suit and kept on smiling all the way to Moscow and back.

Hers was a presence all the family desired at weddings and funerals, reunions or times of illness. Whenever anyone in her large extended family experienced one of these events, Fannie somehow managed to be there. Silent strength and a quiet joy seemed to come along with her. Many times I heard her say "You must pray and ask God to help you." She sat quietly and eyed the person she was speaking to in such a way that they knew this was not merely a suggestion.

Aunt Fannie's Christmas gifts were legendary. Because she had so many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews, Aunt Fannie shopped for Christmas gifts all year long. She mailed these small gifts to many points on the globe.

Aunt Fannie's Christmas box never failed to excite our children. They knew whatever lay inside would be something most unusual, something no one else would ever think to give them. There were times they were delighted with the gift Aunt Fannie sent them and times when they rolled their eyes or held their sides laughing at the strange object in the box, for she would often send some most unusual items. Once, my teen-age daughter received a bible from Aunt Fannie. "Surely she knows I already have one of these," she exclaimed with disgust. Then she grew quiet and ran her hand across the cover. No note on the top said "Read me", but the message still came through.

Aunt Fannie believed in exercise, and she told her visitors they should follow her example and walk a long way every day. At ninety she continued her daily walk, kept up her reading, and spent hours writing letters to her many family members. She no longer drove long distances to attend family functions, but she did manage to come to many funerals, relying on the kindness of one of those nieces or nephews to chauffeur her.

Now, at ninety-five, the years have caught up with her, and she has slowed to a snail's pace. Her mind and her body are no longer hers to will, but the nieces and nephews continue to visit. The conversation has become one-sided, but occasionally a word will trigger a reaction from Aunt Fannie. She raises her head and smiles, and that special strength and joy glows again, if only for a moment. She is our own Earth Angel, whose messages and love will live in our hearts forever.