Winnie Crew: A Faithful Servant Indeed
My precious mama, Winnie Crew, went to be with her Lord and Savior the morning of October 26th, 2019, after suffering a "slow burning" stroke in early September which claimed most of her vision and continued to do damage as time went on.
I had the honor of taking care of her in our home until she passed, and am completely grateful for God's perfect timing, knowing He is sovereign and allowed this for His glory and my good. God IS good.
On November 17th, we had a memorial for her at Grace Bible Church in Oxnard for her southern California friends and family,
and on November 23rd, we had a memorial at Dolores Park Church in San Francisco for her northern California friends and family. So very thankful for dear friends who stepped up to volunteer their time to help pull both of these services off and make them so special in honoring her life and celebrating her home-going. I could not have pulled this off without the expert help from Mike & Betty Murphy and Dustin and Amanda Rogers in southern California, and my mom's dear friend, Malene Hunt, in northern California.
It truly was an honor and privilege to speak at these two memorials. A dear friend of my mom suggested I type up the transcript from the speech and post it for those who weren't able to attend. The words below are close to what was said both in Oxnard and San Francisco.
On behalf of my family, I'd like to thank you so much for coming today to celebrate the home-going of my mom, Winnie Crew.
There are many adjectives I could use to describe my mom. Kind, friendly, helpful, funny, punctual. She was strong. She was supportive — so supportive, especially, to my Daddy. She was super organized. A place for everything and everything in its place kind of gal. But the two words that MOST describe mom are ones my husband recently gave me:
💜Mom was so faithful in her walk with the Lord.
She was a true prayer warrior—daily praying for our family, her friends, various ministries, pastors, churches... She kept a very detailed, long list by her Bible and would pray through it every morning. (It's hard to not think that all of us on that list are now going to fall apart without her daily praying for us, ha).
Mom loved God's Word. There hardly was a day she'd miss reading her Bible in the morning. This was a habit she established when she was young, and carried out with my Daddy all
throughout their marriage—creating an indelible memory of seeing them read their Bibles in their breakfast room growing up in San Francisco, and also in their breakfast room inside the "Red Barn." When she lost her vision in the stroke she had in early September, this was very distressful to her since she was unable to read her Bible anymore. I had to set up an audio Bible for her, which, thankfully, she grew to love. On the morning she passed, we had been listening to almost the whole book of Psalms together—her favorite book. (And as a side note, we also spent many hours listening to the Covenant 4 Quartet, as well. In fact, the song playing when she passed is the 8th song on their album, Get On Board —a song entitled, "By and By." This song always made me cry due to the beautiful—and applicable—lyrics, coupled with the memories that flooded in from long ago.) 💜
Mom also had a heart of thanksgiving. She made it a practice to be thankful in ALL things. Growing up in her household, we were taught at a very early age to be thankful for everything. She would remind us that Scripture commands us to be thankful—and that "everything" means "everything," not just what we love, and what is awesome. We watched this play out in her life as she chose to be thankful when Daddy died, even though this was the hardest thing she ever went through. What a beautiful picture of a woman thankful to a sovereign God who knows much better than we do.
💜So, mom was faithful in her walk with the Lord, but she was also a faithful, loyal supporter to my Daddy.
Mom loved him with all her heart. They were best friends for
66 years. Daddy was the big-picture, dreamer kind of guy who had all sorts of fun, crazy ideas, while mom was the one behind the scenes making them all happen. For instance, in 1963, Daddy said to her,
"Hey Winnie, let's start a male gospel quartet. I will sing bass, you can play piano, and we'll sing in churches, at conferences, and make a bunch of albums. How does that sound to you?"
Well, mom got busy and started arranging the practices, the tours, the concerts, most of their music, and all of their outfits. The Covenant 4 Quartet went on to have a vibrant ministry for 50 years, touring up and down the west coast, and producing sixteen albums. Mom was the engine behind Daddy's dreams. She was a wonderful example to me of a godly, supportive, faithful and loving wife to her best friend.
💜Mom was a faithful follower of Christ, a faithful & loving wife, and lastly, she was a faithful servant with her gifts.
God gave her such an amazing musical talent. As a teenager, Warner Brothers offered her a job playing piano for their movies. After talking it through with her mom, she decided to decline the job, and then went on to pursue studying music and using her amazing talent for God's glory, which she did for the rest of her life. She truly was an amazing accompanist, arranger, had perfect pitch, and seriously could play in any and every key while computing her taxes. Any piece of music put before her, she played with absolute perfection and ease at the drop of a hat. She played for graduations, recitals, services, conferences, weddings, funerals, musicals, ... just about every scenario you can think of. But her ultimate goal in playing was to bring honor to her Savior, which she did.
Besides her amazing musical talent, Mom was also a wonderful hostess. Our home was always open to traveling missionaries, weekly Bible studies, hymn sings, and the single gal trying to get on her feet. She loved making everything warm and inviting for visitors, and because of it, we have life-long friends who had stayed with our family over the years. This was a beautiful example to me as a young girl looking toward the future of one day running my own home.
Mom was also a gifted teacher, and used this gift regularly in children's Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and teaching women's Bible studies for many years in San Francisco. She was a wise teacher because she marinated in Scripture every day. And God gifted her with a beautiful ability to communicate the truths she learned from spending time in His Word for many years.
Mom truly was a faithful servant. 💜
We certainly didn’t expect to have my parents on our ranch for such a short period of time. I had been begging my Daddy to get out of SF and move down to our ranch in Santa Paula for years, but
he kept saying mom wasn’t ready yet. She had such a wonderful network of dear, life-long friends in their church, and was still very involved in helping to teach Bible studies, and playing the piano for many different services and gatherings. It was a lot to ask, I know, but finally, they gave me the green light.
When they moved down into their cute little red house in January
of 2016—just about 400 feet away from ours—it was absolutely wonderful. "Red Barn Happy House." (Backstory: this is how my mom's mom answered the phone for as long as I can remember.)
Having them both there, especially with my kids, was just amazing. Daddy and Jeremy became close buddies and spent much time together, of which I am so very thankful.
I found a sweet little church for them in Oxnard that they adored, and the three of us loved attending their Wednesday night Bible
Study and Sunday morning adult Sunday school. Our family attended with them Sunday mornings for a season, and the dear people at Grace Bible Church welcomed us all as family. Some of our best friends were found during these precious years there.
Even though I didn’t have them very long on our ranch, I am so
thankful that God, in His providence, superintended their move down to Santa Paula so we could all be involved in their care before they passed. How difficult that would have been if they were still living here. God truly knows best.
2017 was absolutely the most difficult year for all of us. Daddy passed away from a massive stroke in early January of 2017, and a month later, just a few hours before his memorial in San Francisco, mom fell down some stairs and broke her hip. She attended the memorial in a wheelchair, and after the reception, I whisked her away to the doctor. He took scans, saw the break, but decided she might be able to heal at home. Well, after eight weeks of me living with her in the red barn and her trying to heal, she still couldn't put any pressure on her leg, so I drove her up to San Francisco where she had a full hip replacement surgery, then physical therapy for three weeks in Pacifica. Fun fun.
In June of 2017, I took her to her doctor in Ventura for testing, and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, even though she didn’t agree with the doctor or want to accept it. I remember walking to the car after her appointment and her saying to me, "Jill. Read my lips. I DON'T HAVE ALZHEIMER'S. And I don't want to talk about it anymore." It was just in the beginning stages, so not very noticeable to others at this point. Spending time with her on a daily basis, however, I saw the effects of this and even then started mourning the loss of my mom.
As some of you know, God brought us through the Thomas Fire in
December of 2017. Fire raged through our property, our family had to stay in a hotel for 34 nights, we lost two 40’ storage containers — one hers, one ours, but He saved both of our houses. So much to
be thankful for. And even though we all lost many precious things, we all agreed with mom that “stuff is just stuff.” People are much more important. (Video above was taken on our ranch just before Jeff evacuated on December 4th, 2017.)
About 2 weeks before she passed, some of our dear friends came
over and helped us sort through mom’s storage container to see what we could salvage. These were things my parents moved down from their home in San Francisco, but couldn’t fit into their new (and much smaller) 1200 square foot house. Unfortunately, about 99% of it had to be thrown away.
That day, two of my dear friends sat with her while I worked down at the storage unit assessing the damage with the others. And all day long she kept asking us, "did you find it yet?" She wasn’t her
referring to her cute little antiques, her dishes from the wedding, or her dear letters from her grandma. She was anxious about finding a large cardboard BIBLE she had made back in the late 50s, which she had used to teach a song on the books of the Bible to many, many children, including me, for over 50 years. When we found it in the rubble and told her we had it, she was so thankful. This was the best news she was hoping for, and to me, it was clear evidence of where her treasure was, what she valued most in life, and where her heart was. I can't even count how many sweet sympathy cards I received from former Sunday School kids she taught who mentioned this in their notes to me, saying that they know the books of the Bible because of my mom and Daddy. Such a testimony of faithfulness.
It was very difficult to watch the progression of her disease. Weeks before she died, most of the time she thought of me as her caregiving nurse… a nurse she called DELINA. She loved Delina because Delina had long, deep conversations with her about her past, about her family, about what she loved most. One day, as Delina asked about her kids, she proudly said she has three… to which she followed up by saying, “and TWO of them are following the Lord.” Well, ...Delina could not let that one rest, so she politely asked, “which ones?” Mom said, “MY BOYS!” 😂😂😂 Thanks, mom.
About a week before she passed, she fell and broke her ribs. My caregiving duties tripled at that point. So very thankful for my daughter, Jillian, who stepped up and helped me without complaining, as we gingerly cared for my mom, now bedridden and in much pain.
After one long session of changing her and preparing her for her nighttime routine, getting her all tucked in and cozy, mom said, “thank you so much for your kindness to me. You are taking such good care of me. I love you.” Well, I hadn’t heard anything like that for a while, so I just had to ask, “who are you talking to?” And immediately mom said, “Sterling and Carl.” (my brothers) 🙄🙄🙄
But even days before she passed, when she was hardly able to
communicate, she still broke out into a clear explanation of the gospel to one of her dear hospice nurses. Sherrill asked her if she knew where she was going when she died. And it was as if somebody flipped a switch on her back, because she then went on to boldly explain how Christ saved her through His death and resurrection, and because of that, she was looking forward and ready to spend eternity with Him in heaven. This was a beautiful picture to me—that even though she had forgotten who I was, she remembered where she was going and why. Wow. What an amazing gift.
Some have asked what her last words to me were. I debated long and hard about whether or not to include this, but my family told me I just had to. It was two nights before she passed, and her words were getting muddled, confused, and feeble—making it very difficult to understand what she was saying. Around 4 in the morning, I heard her mumble “HELP!” “HELP!”… I knew she was in pain, but it wasn’t time to give her meds yet. I jumped up and grabbed her arm and said, “mama, I’m here. What can I do to help you?” She turned in my direction and said in the strongest and clearest tone ever, “YOU CAN JUST BE QUIET!” And there you have it. Mom’s last words to me. 😂
But that really wasn’t my mom. I know if she had been lucid, she would have told me, “I love you, Jill. Keep trusting in Jesus, and I’ll see you soon.” 💜
Today, I’m rejoicing in the fact that my mom—who was so faithful in her walk with the Lord, such a faithful & supportive wife to my Daddy, and a faithful servant by using her gifts for her Savior—is now spending eternity in heaven with Jesus.
But it’s not HER faithfulness that allowed that to happen. It’s GOD’S faithfulness to her. There’s nothing that my mom could have possibly done to validate her ticket to eternity with Christ. This was all done by a loving and faithful God who sent His own Son to die in her place.
We don’t grieve as those with no hope! Mom used to always tell me that HOPE is not a verb. We don’t “HOPE” for eternal things. We don't "HOPE" to see each other again after we die. We have a LIVING HOPE. It’s a NOUN! Our HOPE is in Christ Jesus.
I’m beyond grateful that God gave me two amazing parents who
loved each other deeply, but loved their Savior more. And I can say with all confidence that they are now singing, playing the piano, the bass, the trumpet, the accordion, and whatever other instruments they have up there, worshiping their Savior together in heaven for eternity.
Thank you so much for coming to honor God's faithfulness to my precious mom.
During both services for my mom, a beautiful slide show was presented on her life, created by my niece, Krysten. Click below to watch.
And during the service in San Francisco, a very special video was played created by one of mom's dearest friends, Daisy Hepburn. Also below, click to watch.