by Janelle Engle
These last 15 months have been some of the richest months of my life. By rich I mean it has been a time when amazing goodness and grace are juxtaposed with intense sadness and pain. As many of you know, I married Frank Engle in May 2014. Only seven months later, we lost our son Aaron, who had struggled for years with bipolar disorder.
I am new to Newberg, except for the four years between 1978 and 1982, when I attended George Fox College (now University). After graduation, I went back to Spokane, Washington, where I was married, had two sons, and received my master’s degree in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University. Almost 30 years later, in 2012, Frank Engle and I reconnected when my parents, Paul and Martha Puckett, moved into Friendsview. Frank and I started communicating over e-mail. FaceTime made it possible for us to feel like we were not far away, and Alaska Airlines made it possible to not be far away quite as much. On May 31, 2014, we were married in the chapel on the Whitworth University campus with our four sons at our sides.
You might wonder why we married at Whitworth. I had been the director of counseling services at Whitworth University for 21 years. As director, my role at Whitworth was to see many students throughout the school year that were struggling in some way with college life. Besides counseling for homesickness, I typically helped students with depression, anxiety, relational issues, stress management, love sickness, self-esteem issues, and many other issues. But another part of my job was much more difficult. I assisted the Student Life staff in determining the prognosis of students who struggled on the edge. This included diagnoses related to personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and sometimes, psychoses. I had the difficult task of determining the need to send someone to the hospital to be evaluated right away, to assist the student in finding support among the community of counselors in the Spokane area, or, in tandem with the Student Life vice-president, to make a recommendation about whether to send a student home to get treatment.
I loved my years at Whitworth University. I had wonderful, deep friendships with good people there, and it was hard to leave. I knew, though, that I was entering into marriage with one of finest people I have ever known (and I was right)! In addition, I knew that many people with whom I went to George Fox were still in or around the Newberg area. One day, when talking about my move with a colleague, he said to me, “It’s good that you are going back to be with ‘your people.’” I thought it was interesting he put it that way, but I realized his view was insightful. (This colleague also countered my announcement of a new chapter unfolding with, “That’s not a new chapter; it’s a new book!”) I had been in the Presbyterian church for 20+ years and we had often discussed the theological differences between the two denominations. I really appreciated learning about the Reformed tradition, but he knew I was from a long line of Quakers.
Almost immediately, even before moving back to Newberg, I was reminded of who “my people” were. With Frank working at Friendsview, and my parents having moved there, he and I seemed to be an interesting topic of conversation. I was known throughout Friendsview before I knew anyone there! After we married, I quickly felt comfortable in the services at Newberg Friends because of the genuine welcome from the pastoral team and some of you who knew Frank and Patsy Engle well. Then, after Aaron’s death, we were embraced by so many of you. You immediately coordinated efforts, cooking dinner for us for nearly a month! As you brought the delicious meals, I was reminded of the gentleness that so many of you exude. You were present with us in a way that made us feel included and loved, but not intruded upon; your humility and grace were unsurpassed. The amazing love and care that you have bestowed upon the Engle family has been and continues to be a wonderful reminder that being here, among “my people,” is one of the gifts God lavished upon me when I decided to marry Frank and move back into the Newberg community. It has been a wonderful gift to me to remember our Quaker ways and to participate in our Quaker community even as our family has experienced intense joy and heartbreaking sorrow throughout this last year. God’s love gives us strength to carry on as we continue to grieve losing our son Aaron. At the same time, we want to thank you, our community in Christ, for being the hands and feet of Jesus to us and carrying us in your prayers. We want to let you know that we couldn’t be more grateful for you!