Contemplative Life

Remembering Virginia Watson

In February of 2018, we held a retreat at Corhaven in which Virginia Watson, a then-94 year old woman sat with us for a day and shared some of her wisdom, gained through a lifetime of walking closely with Jesus.  On May 24, 2019, she joined Jesus in Heaven.

For the benefit of many, we want to share her list of 12 things she shared with us that day in February 2018, as well as a few words I was honored to share at her celebration of life this past weekend.

Some Ideas that have shaped my life, at 94
by: Virginia Watson

  1. Make peace with reality.
  2. I can choose my response.  I have a choice.
  3. Be slow to chide and swift to bless.
  4. Make gratitude and thanksgiving a daily part of my life.
  5. Remember that God loves me.  Make love my aim. I say to myself my mistakes are not my totality.  I too need love so I say to myself, “Sweetheart, God loves you as if there is no one else to love.”
  6. Read some good old books and sincerely pray some old prayers.
  7. Trust God and lean not on my own understanding.
  8.  Before I get out of bed in the morning thank God for a new day and his presence with me in the day.
  9.  Keep short accounts.  Take responsibility and confess to God and others when I am wrong.
  10.  When faced with temptation flee.  If necessary whisper or yell fire.
  11.  Hang out with God’s people and develop classic spiritual disciplines.
  12.  From the Book of Common Prayer: What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?  Answer: My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.


A remembrance given at The Falls Church Anglican on June 1, 2019 follows:

We do a lot of hand-wringing in my generation. Mostly about two questions: Who am I? And, What should I do? The questions haunt and torment across generations today, though purported answers abound in a wide variety of flavors. People telling us to “live your best life” or “you do you” or “find your truth”.  Probably most people feel a little lost and modern proverbs offer nothing to them. In a time when people are desperate for truth but unsure of what it is, meeting Virginia Watson was a tonic.

We co-led a retreat last year in which she shared a list of 12 practices she considers indispensable in her walk with the Lord. While the list is foundational, and should be shared widely, it is the strong presence of Jesus felt through Virginia when you were near her, and that she left in her wake everywhere she went, that changed me that day.  It is what you all in this room right now are feeling, even as she has gone on into the Larger Life. I was changed by a woman who knew her identity: a daughter of the King. She never questioned it, and lived directly and fully from that place every day. I was changed by a woman who knew what to do: she asks the Lord, waits for him to speak, and then simply does what he says. I swim in a sea of uncertainty most days, and just sitting next to Virginia with her unshakeable rootedness in God steadied me with lasting effect.  Her answers are the same at any age, in any time, in any place. Her utter confidence and practical, joyful obedience is never far from my mind and heart, especially when that sea of uncertainty gets heavy.

C.S. Lewis’s extended allegory about Heaven,“The Great Divorce”, contains a passage where the narrator is witnessing a procession of people so long that he first thinks it is a river when he sees it, much like the gathering here today.  Since I met Virginia, she is the person I think about when I read it, and so I’ve substituted her name in it, and I enjoy imagining that it may be happening in Heaven right now. These are excerpts of what Lewis describes:

First came the bright spirits…Then came youthful shapes…If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who could read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honor all of this was being done…
‘Is it? …. Is it?’ I whispered to my guide.
‘Not at all,’ said he. ‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of.  Her name on Earth was [Virginia Watson] and she lived [in Falls Church].
‘She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?’
‘Aye. She is one of the great ones.  Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.’…
‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’
‘They are her sons and daughters.’
‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.’
‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter…Her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more…Now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them…Already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe to life.’

As an honorary daughter of Virginia Watson, in Christ, let me say what I know to be true: We in this room love better, we are a little less lost and doubtful, we are more rooted in the Love of God, in the truth of his Redemption, in the REAL answers to the big questions, for having known her. Virginia Watson was and is, indeed, one of the great ones.

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