Earth Lost an Angel

On October 8, 2019, according to my daughter Kimmy, “The earth lost another angel.” This blog is my eulogy for that angel, Ani O’Conner. 

Kimmy knew Ani well, having babysat for her children and attended the church her husband, J.P., pastored in Philadelphia. Kimmy and her sister Alison had also grown up with J.P. O’Conner who, many years before, visited our house frequently as a young Christian looking for love and support. J.P. had sought his fortunes on Broadway in New York City, coming back to his home town in Connecticut discouraged. We lived nearby at the time, attending a local church that embraced this talented young man and loved him to Jesus. 

J.P.’s singing voice was one of those freaks of nature. For all its strength, it had no apparent ceiling. I urged him to get out of his home town and see what music school had to offer him. He ended up attending Atlantic Union College on a voice scholarship, studying theology as well. That’s where he met Ani, another singing phenomenon with a ceiling-less, bright soprano voice. They married and began a ministry path that took them to several pastorates in the northeast until they landed in our church in Philadelphia, to where we’d moved. It’s a small world. 

I could ramble on about how the O’Conner’s singing and J.P.’s preaching and leadership revolutionized our church, and it would all be true. Christmas cantatas became regular fare, always ending with a breath-stopping duet of Oh Holy Night. The church revved up energy-wise because of the inspiring power couple at the lead. But this blog is about dear, warm, funny, friendly, sunshiney, not-a-mean-bone-in-her body Ani. 

Have you ever asked why the good die young? Have you wondered at the unfairness of life? Have you bled inside for brokenhearted spouses and children left behind when someone was so good so as to be missed not only for the space they held, but for the extraordinary way they held it? Have you ever wished secretly some grumpier, more selfish person could have died instead? All those wonderments and questions are admissible in Ani’s case. 

Ani. She’d lost her leg as a teen in a van accident in the Dominican Republic where she grew up, so wore a prosthesis and limped a bit. She’d get “phantom pains” at times. But what she’d lost in body God had given back fourfold in spirit. She stood on the tall side, with raven black hair falling around a beaming and beautiful face that more often than not flashed a dazzling smile. She loved a good party, good food, and fun times all laced with her musical laughter. When Ani sang, the reality of her devotion to God became inescapable. She loved him, her family, and her friends with all her heart and it showed. 

Ani contracted an aggressive form of cancer several years ago. The many who loved her fought mightily for her life and seemed for a while to have won. But the special treatments only bought months and years, not the decades she needed to die a timely death. And so, dear Ani O’Conner fell asleep this October as the wind began to blow cold. Kimmy said it well—the earth lost an angel. 

Don’t settle for earth, though. Life here is unfair, incomplete, and insufficient. How can there not be a heaven? The love we hold for each other is too big for this meager, brief, shadow of a life. Come to Jesus and let Him prepare you for the world to come where we will see, among other things, my friend Ani. 

16 thoughts on “Earth Lost an Angel

  1. Katherine Grasso Reply

    Thank you for the beautiful eulogy for my sweet and amazing aunt. We miss her dearly.

  2. Stu & Lucille Rideout Reply

    Lucille and I are greatly saddened to hear of Ani’s passing.
    We count it joy to have known Ani and JP, if only for a brief while.
    Please allow me to offer our sympathy and Prayers on behalf of the staff of the former Carpenter’s Workshop Coffeehouse.
    It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

  3. Maria Greaves-safadi Reply

    So sorry for your loss. I pray you’ll allow the Lord to lead you through your grief til it’s course is run. I too am grieving, as there have been many losses, the most recent being ny father in August of this year. I am cheered by the thought, “take heart & be encouraged all ye who hope in the Lord.” May you have the Lord’s sweetness in your sorrow, and be blessed (Lexicon meaning– be fully satisfied by Him, Himself). Maria

  4. Bill Warcholik Reply

    ? no words can express the sadness in my heart upon reading of the profound loss for family and friends. As a pastor who also lost a wife to cancer and as someone who was blessed by their ministry, I weep for my brother-in-Christ, JP. Cling to Jesus, the King is coming soon, and He will sustain you until the Blessed Hope becomes dazzling reality.

  5. John Reply

    What a beautiful letter Jennifer. My heart was touched and inspired. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Mary Cassidy Reply

    Yes, I do know what it feels to lose a “young one”, and have to carry on daily living without her to grace our table. She was nineteen and our only child. She was a photographer, scuba diver, violinist and a pilot preparing for mission service, she was just two weeks away from obtaining her commercial rating. She was taken from us by a “Drowsy Driving”, who was just 21 years old.
    I had someone ask me recently… Shouldn’t we go to 1Thessalonians 4:13 and not grieve as those who have no hope? My answer to that is that I have the “Hope” of seeing my daughter again and soon, but my grief is always present. How can a person be healed of a wound that is made in your heart as the shape of the loved one that is gone? You can’t until Resurrection Morning, when I will be made whole by the presence of my Redeemer. What I do know after losing a mother, father ( who left our family when I was age four), a brother, grandmother and several aunts, that the grief of a child is the hardest loss I have EVER had to go through. It has brought illness to me, sadness that is indescribable, but I have that “Hope”. The Father has been by my side and I know I can not handle this trial on my own. I am totally dependent on Him. For that I see that I am just where He wants me to be. Please visit our website where we have blogs and other materials to help in time of loss… Blessings!

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      I’m so heartbroken for you. Don’t let the prooftexters tell you that you can’t weep and that the pain should just evaporate. It will ache until Jesus comes. But it will also make you a powerhouse for Him. Courage and Maranatha.

  7. Jerrell Gilkeson Reply

    You are so right! Thanks for this message! Ani was a wonderful Christian friend. JG

  8. Stephanie E Moore Reply

    I never knew this angel but my heart breaks for this loss. Remember this. The departure is only temporary. The pain will always linger. Life moves onward yet take comfort in the reunion angels will assist us with as we glide toward our savior then her! It will be sooner than later.

  9. Ermine Reply

    Jennifer you have said it so well, as we have all shared in a part of Ani’s ministry.
    It’s hard to understand why our loved ones are taken from us, but find comfort in knowing you were a special part of a well-lived life.
    We cannot feel life’s losses without first feeling the blessings of its fullness.

  10. Kristi Karnopp Reply

    Although I just read this eulogy just now, this day, I do have to admit that it was a wonderful eulogy. I am sorry for the loss of this kind person’s family, friends, and neighbors.

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