Thursday, September 13, 2007


Debbie Roome

Pat marched to the beat of a different drummer. She was an odd one, strange in appearance and ostracized, even by people in our church.

Aged about forty, Pat was a regular at evening services and always arrived in denims, sweatshirt and a blue jacket. Sometimes light, sometimes dark, but always blue. Even if it was blistering outside, the jacket would be on. Her hair was fine, blonde, pulled back in a short pony tail and shaved round her ears.

To our shame, my husband and I judged Pat to begin with. Sided with those who laughed at her strangeness and wished she would make adjustments. That she would conform and fit in.

Pat was gregarious by nature and got hold of me at church one evening. It was the beginning of understanding, a gradual progression of relationship. As I got to know her, my prejudices began to crumble. I learnt that Pat was deeply passionate about wildlife, and nature, and ham radio. She did her best to get my husband to join the “Save the Whales” website and told me stories of radio friends, connected across the world by their interest. Mostly, however, she talked about her snakes.

She had a collection of them, a couple of dozen that lived in tanks around the walls of her bedroom. Other rooms held cages of rats and mice that she bred to feed them. Pat came alive when talking about her snakes. She seldom looked you in the eye but her face would be animated, her hands fluttering as she explained how she cared for them. As she discussed their habits and behaviour. She even said that when she died, she hoped she would be surrounded by her snakes.

A friend found her on a balmy summer’s evening, concerned when she didn’t emerge for her ride to church. Investigators pieced the story together. The fatal bite was inflicted by an American Cotton mouth, probably four days previously. It seems that after Pat was bitten, she simply walked through to the lounge and lay down to die. No one missed her in those four days.

The church was shocked and a large number of people attended her funeral. One after another stood up and spoke of her love affair with nature, with ham radio, of her obsession with snakes. As I listened, God began to crystallize some things in my heart. I thought of how Pat’s life had touched mine. How God had used her to show me that we are all unique and special with something to offer. I thought of how, in spite of her strangeness and quirkiness, Pat had done something that few of us manage. She lived her life with great purpose and passion. A passion that bordered on obsession and leaked from every pore.

As I sat there, I wondered what people would say at my funeral. Would they speak of my passion for life? Would they say my reason for living was apparent to all; that my love for God was clearly visible? Sadly, the answer was no.

I came to appreciate Pat in life, but she taught me a whole lot more through her death. Lessons that have burned deep into my heart. I have consciously laid aside insipidness and continue to fight ferociously against apathy. God used a simple woman, one who marched to the beat of a different drummer to teach me these things.

When I see her again, I’m going to thank her. Thank her for living her life with passion and being exactly who she was.

(These events unfolded several years ago when I was living in South Africa)

Submitted by
Debbie Roome

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