In recent years the Lord has been pleased to remove from this earthly scene not a few gracious, godly women, some of whom had been spared to reach a ripe old age. Among them was Annie MacIver, Bayview, North Tolsta, whom He took to Himself on 1 December 2000. The fact that she was 92 years of age when she was taken seems only to make us all the more conscious of the blank that has been left and the greatness of the loss sustained. The lips of a praying woman and one who was truly a mother in Israel are now, alas, silent in the grave.
Her mother died in childbirth when Annie was only two and a half years of age. Her father remarried and the fact that the stepmother was a caring and sympathetic woman made up for the loss sustained, and she and her elder brother were thus, in the Lord’s providence, brought up in a home where they were lovingly cared for together with the other children who were subsequently born into it.
It would appear the Annie was circumspect from the days of her youth. In 1927, at the age of 19, she was joined in marriage to Donald MacIver, who had been born and brought up in the same village. Eight children were to be born to them – four sons and four daughters – seven of whom are spared. Donald served in the Royal Navy throughout the war and was brought through many dangers – on one occasion he was the last man to be rescued from a torpedoed ship. On demobilisation, he returned to North Tolsta and there he and his wife were to spend the rest of their days. A worthy, humble Christian, he was a deacon in the North Tolsta congregation at the time of his death in 1973, and his obituary is to be found in volume 80 of The Free Presbyterian Magazine. Mrs MacIver’s full brother, Angus, also served in the Royal Navy but, sadly, he was lost through enemy action in 1940.
The exact nature of her spiritual experience in passing from death to life is unknown to the writer but it would appear that she, in common with many others now in glory, was brought out of darkness and into marvellous light in a gradual manner. The loss of her brother, whom she much loved and adored left its own mark. The attachment was strong, and his death was the occasion of much mourning on her part. So much was this the case that she felt that she was rebuked by the words: “What have I to do any more with idols?” From this she concluded that her mourning was excessive.
Being already exercised with regard to her spiritual state, we are told that while scrubbing the floor of her house around this time, words also found in the Prophet Hosea arrested her attention: “Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy”. They were words which afterwards she often quoted. In any case, she appears to have been much exercised in regard to her spiritual state when the Rev Fraser Macdonald became minister of North Tolsta in 1952. She professed publicly her faith in Christ after hearing a sermon preached on the words: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” That He had already come and was formed in her heart as the hope of glory was to become increasingly evident as she matured in Christian experience. She was not one who hid her light before men, and her outward life and conversation declared plainly whose she was and whom she served. At that time there was a number of men in North Tolsta eminent in grace and godliness, and as ruling elders they kept a very watchful eye on the flock; among them were her two uncles John and Angus Nicolson, whom she greatly loved and respected.
In 1958 she passed through a fiery trial when her youngest son John was killed at the age of 21 in a car accident near Invergarry. Just a few days before this tragic event, her minister called and, while engaging in prayer in the home, he referred to the experience of the Shunamite woman whose child died but who yet said to the prophet: “It is well”. Her mind seems to have latched onto this and, after the prayer was ended, Mrs MacIver said to the minister that she wondered just what her own response would be if she was placed in a similar situation. When she, so shortly afterwards, found herself mourning the loss of a much-loved son, these words were her only solace and proved to be of much help to her in coming to be reconciled to the Lord’s sovereign will.
While she was able, Mrs MacIver was a frequent visitor at communion seasons throughout Lewis. She loved to be in the company of others like-minded, whose conversation on such occasions of Christian fellowship was wont to be “seasoned with salt”. She was never happier than when speaking of the Lord’s dealings with her own soul, or of His dealings with the souls of others, or of matters of interest related to the cause of Christ at home and abroad. Naturally of a cheerful and bright disposition, she seemed to triumph over adversity and the heartache she experienced in connection with these several bereavements she patiently endured, and at no time did she give the watching world reason to think ill of her Master or to think that she was anything other than submissive to Him who had placed for her good – and that was the way she endeavoured to see it – such bitter ingredients in the cup of her providence.
Over the last 20 years of her life she was, through ill-health, largely confined to her home and not able to attend the public means of grace. Visitors were cordially welcomed, and her beaming face and the warmth of her greeting lingers in the memory. Throughout that period she was lovingly cared for by her family, especially her sons Donald and Colin, who stayed in the home with her. She saw most of her contemporaries removed – those with which she went to the house of God “on solemn holy days” – but if she could not, as Philip Henry expresses it, “go to the house of God, she was frequently going to the God of the house”. She loved the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and its testimony, and her fervent desire was that He would come to revive His work in North Tolsta and to the ends of the earth. Her secret spiritual exercises have now come to an end but, like the prayers of the son of Jesse, they are not yet answered. Until shortly before the end, her faculties remained unimpaired. Having travelled along the highway – “the way of holiness” – to its final destination she has now, we fully believe, “obtained joy and gladness”, and “sorrow and sighing” have for ever and ever fled away.
Rev John MacLeod
[This obituary was originally printed in the December 2002 issue of the Free Presbyterian Magazine.]