After the exhaustive schedule of Christmas Eve, I was prepared to spend most of the remainder of my Christmas day with my brain turned off. Shortly after noon, however, Ann Gillespie called to tell me the sad news that Bishop Jane Dixon died overnight.

As Ann preached in her sermon this past Sunday, it seems that really good news and really bad news both seem to come completely out of the blue. I’ve been thinking much about Jane today. While I certainly knew her, we were not in regular contact. On the occasion I would run into her the past few years, she always greeted me with a great smile, a hug, and would ask how Mary Todd (my dog) was doing. When she was in the office, she would never fail to walk down to my office and spend a moment talking and playing with Mary Todd. Despite only working alongside her for a rather short amount of time, she has left a lasting impression on me.

I knew of Jane before I actually met her. Jane was a long-time champion for the rights of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church. Much of the welcome that Episcopal churches throughout the country offer to LGBT individuals can be traced back to Jane’s strong fight for inclusion. And, for that, I am personally indebted. She also had to endure some of the most uncharitable acts of hostility from parishioners in her own diocese because of her gender. Yet, she never seemed bitter or deterred, and her work has helped to make many of those parishes much friendlier and open.

But, it’s not for these accomplishments that I’ll remember her.

First, I loved her accent. Having always lived in the south, I felt very much at home around her.  Secondly, I’ll remember being in a meeting where someone used the phrase “This is not my first rodeo.” She had never heard the phrase before, and at future meetings she would try to use it, often not getting it quite right and then letting out a big laugh. Third, I’ll remember her deep love for her own dog, Arthur. She was always happy to talk about Arthur – he was an integral part of her life the past several years. And, it became quite clear -- this is a very spoiled dog! I told Jane once that I felt certain that when Arthur’s time on this earth was done, I was sure that he’d be disappointed to discover that Heaven was actually a step down from the life he had been enjoying. Lastly, I’ll remember her fondness for children. If one wanted to make Jane cry, all you had to do was make sure that children were singing. I believe that the sound of a children’s choir singing is possibly the closest I’ll get on this side of life to hearing the actual voice of God. I think Jane felt the same. And, now when I hear those children’s voices sing in the future, I’ll smile and think that perhaps Jane is cheering them on from the great throng of Saints who have entered into God’s closer presence. And, when my own time here is done, I hope to see her again, and I fully expect that one of the first things she’ll do is to ask me about Mary Todd.