Another birthday you get to spend in heaven. This is year 13 since the first.
I think of you quite often, mostly in passing but on special days like today, you never leave my thoughts. On a day like today, I think back to years past when you were still here with us. I try to remember your face without looking at your picture first. It comes slowly. First, your eyes that twinkle when you smile. Then your cheeks, rosy usually from a little blush. Then your big smile. It makes my heart happy.
Tonight on my ride home from work, when your face came in to memory, my vision of you switched to Logan. I think there's some of that twinkle I saw in your eyes in his. Maybe that's why his smile is so endearing to me. And then I thought of your final year with us. The song "Your Great Name" by Natalie Grant was playing in the background as my memories came in to focus. My thoughts continued to flow... I thought of the one night I tried to bargain with God. I don't even remember what my bargaining chip was, I just know that in return I wanted complete healing for you. Then my thoughs flowed to a friend who's prayer was recently answered, in His way.
Next, I remembered the time you told me it was cancer. You had only been in the hospital for a few days, over the weekend actually. And I came to see you at the hospital with my friends from high school. You said it was going to be ok. You said we had to trust God. You said that my faith was like your faith. I took that as such a huge compliment because of how you lived your life, by your faith. I didn't see it in me then. Sometimes I see it in me now but still not like how I saw it in you.
As the song continued to play, I started to realize that it was that year that I learned what it meant to have faith, true faith. I realized that even through your pain you taught me about grace; living gracefully, dying gracefully, and most importantly, about the amazing grace of God.
In those months, I never heard you complain. I don't remember you ever shedding a tear for yourself. What I remember was soemthing beautiful. You made sure to keep your spirits up, your faith never wavered, and when you smiled, it was still with a twinkle in your eye. Perhaps, you did shed some tears when we weren't around. But I think even in those final days, you were still teaching us how to live by faith and by God's grace.
I remembered the last time I tried to bargain with God. It was when they told us you only had a couple of months to live. It was a weird feeling, having someone put a deadline on your life. A couple of months would bring us to November of 1997. And I immediately thought of what a sad Christmas it would be. So that's when I tried to make a deal. "Lord, do you think you can wait until afer February? That way my brother can have another birthday with her." I felt it was somewhat unfair that you would be there for our Fall birthdays but not for our brother's.
Christmas came and went and I thought that we just might make it. Until the first week in January when I looked at you and realized it was time. You know that expression, "Put yourself in my shoes..." or "Walk a mile in my shoes..." On that day, I did. I put myself in your shoes and I thought not about us children, but about you. I thought about how good you were, about your grace, about your kindness and generosity. Suddenly it dawned on me that it was not fair to you to continue to live the life you were living, your body was wasting away. Sustained only by intravenous feeds, pain numbed with morphine and codeine. I said a quick prayer, "God please take her. It's time."
It was January 7, 1998 when I uttered that quick prayer. Around noon that day, two of your friends came to visit. One of whom gave you a sponge bath in bed, while the other strummed on a guitar and sang some worship songs. I sat on the couch and thought it was a good thing that you were getting cleaned up. In that way, you would be feeling nice and fresh when you went to be with Jesus. After they left I helped you lay back down in your bed and brought you a glass of water. You said you would take a nap so I went downstairs to watch some television. I had just settled in when you called me back up the stairs. You were bleeding from your colostomy bag so I changed the dressing but it wouldn't stop. I called Papa at work and then your oncologist who sent an ambulance over... the rest of the afternoon was a blur.
You passed away three days later. I had never felt that kind of pain before. It felt like someone put their hands in my chest and pulled out my heart, pulled out my soul. It was an empty feeling. But even as the pain crashed like angry waves at me, I had faith in God, stronger than it had ever been. I knew you were with Him and that where you were there was no pain. I imagined you with the twinkle in your eye.
Thank you for being a model of faith and grace. It was through you that I learned how to pray. It was through you that I learned how to worship and I learned how to praise. It was through you that I learned about God's unconditional love and forgiveness. It was through you that I came to know my Savior, in the way that you lived your life. I thank Him for choosing us for one another.
You express your loss so well in this article.
It is easy to 'see' the pain and sence of loss you experienced and yet there is a feeling of 'victory' too.
The years between do not take away the feeling of loss but they do allow us to realise the blessing of having known the one who has gone home before us.