My Beloved Emily Elizabeth
by Agatha Mangwende
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Barely three weeks have passed since my young sister Emily Elizabeth passed away.
Tears have not come easy for me; the pain is just too much for me to bear alone. I grieved at her funeral, but then God took all that sorrow and grief and hid it in His Cross. That is the only sensible way I can explain how I am processing my grief. Everything seems buried deep inside me and all I can feel is a numbness I cannot even explain. But God is carrying me; that much I have assurance of.
When my brother Mike passed away in June 1991 I grieved for months. Every time I thought of him I would burst out crying, even while walking down the street. He was my big brother and it was like someone had chopped off the covering of my head. I lost direction and I could not be comforted. During his time of illness I had prayed and fasted so hard I was sure he would be healed. But the finality was that I lost him to the hepatitis virus which ran through his liver so fast that within six months he had died.
I lost to that dreadful poison in his body but through prayer and sharing God's Word with him I won his soul for Jesus. The enemy caught up with him but not before God sent his emissaries to lead him to the Cross. The enemy sent his servants to slay him but God had already planned an eternity with him.
After Mike I lost five more family members to different kinds of illnesses. God knows why we as a family have to grieve so much; but the comforting truth is that not a tear drops to the ground from our eyes without Him shading a few more of His. Remember Jesus wept as Mary and Martha wept for their brother Lazarus.
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
It is so annoying to listen to the hypocritical sympathies of some relatives when they speculate on what kind of sin my mother committed that would be causing the death of her children. Jesus had an answer for his disciples when they speculated on what sin caused the man to be born blind.
‘As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’.
Now Liz is gone, and the speculation continues, even from relatives whom we thought were mature born again Christians. Sometimss what we profess to be is overtaken by what we become when we think we can score a grudge by striking with harshful words at a person in their moment of weakness. It is even more pathetic when this is done to a grieving person. In the Bible we are warned against taking advantage of someone in their weak state. We are instead told to comfort those who mourn and strengthen the feeble hands. One has to be an extra special case of a coward to lash out bitter words at a grieving person.
At Liz's funeral I was actually told indirectly that I was the ugly big sister who stepped on people's toes unlike Liz who was good natured and easy going. I almost retorted that I was the Martha in the kitchen while she was the Mary taking it easy at the Lord's feet. Then the Lord caught my thought and reminded me about what I was up against; the enemy using his servants, again, to destroy the wonderful relationship that Liz and I shared since she graduated from Teacher training.
She was now an adult and since I was six years her senior I immediately became her mentor and friend. The three sisters older than her and younger than me never finished High School and ended up marrying early. So Liz and I had a kin spirit, having made it to High School and training in careers. That was how we came to bond; not as special but just different from the other sisters. We were the career girls of the family!
So it became normal for Elizabeth to spend her school holidays with me. This practice continued into her married life such that she would seek permission from her husband to come with her two little boys to Harare to spent school holidays with big sister. She and her police officer husband were based in Bulawayo at that time.
Finally the couple were both transfered to Harare and Liz and I practically spent all weekends together. That was how we also became members of the same church. One Sunday we were walking home from church and we were each holding the hand of Liz's little boy. As we approached a pole both of us assumed that the other would let go of his hand. That did not happen and we actually walked the poor child straight into the pole! If it was the days of cellphones someone would have taken a photo and put it on Facebook to show how stupid some parents could be.
But for Liz and I, it was not the stupidity we were worried about. We shared such a strong bond between us and our children such that they felt comfortable in either one's company. That was why either one of us did not let go of the child - he got hurt from the expression of too much love.
Some sisters' relationships are destroyed by infidelity; whereby one sister would not hesitate to jump into bed with her sister's husband. Liz helped look after my children during her school holidays as a single young woman. An opportunity presented itself one night while I was hospitalised. My then husband went on to make advances towards her night after night, to which she flatly refused him. She told me herself soon after I came home from hospital and to this day I thank her for her integrity. In our Shona culture some weak women even go the extent of having children by their sisters' husbands. God spared me from having to deal with the resultant anger and bitterness.
What Liz and I shared was very special. We were bonded by sisterly love and togetherness. It is no mystery to me that God chose that she slips away in the compfort my home surrounded by family members rather than in the coldness of a hospital bed, not that there would be anything wrong with that. In Romans 8:38-39 we read that: ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’
The love that Liz and I shared can never be broken by death. She was a part of me and will always be a part of me till we are reunited at the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am so privileged and honored to have been given a young sister like Elizabeth. She brought joy and fulfillment in my life. She may be gone in person by her spirit will always be with me. That is why I will not continue to grieve; she has just crossed over to the other side where she is now free from pain.
Thank you Lord for my life, for Emily Elizabeth's life and for intertwining us so meticulously. I salute You. May her soul rest in peace. Farewell farewell sweet angel of mine.
My challenge for you
Liz was diagnosed of cervical cancer while it was already at an advanced stage. Before that Liz was a very energetic, vibrant and active person. At her school she was also a sports instructor and she led many students through various sporting achievements. A year ago noone would have forseen the pain and suffering she would have had to go through as the cancer took its toll on her once strong, vibrant and energetic body. But God knew. With each passing day He saw her getting weaker and derilious from the pain she had to endure. Finally, she began to cry out to Him to take her home. God heard her cries and on a Tuesday morning on the 6th of May 2014, just a month away from her 50th birthday God took her to her eternal home.
If you were to be diagnosed of a horrible disease today would you have the assurance in your heart to know that no matter the outcome God would come through for you? Jesus has given us victory over death. He says. 'I will never leave you nor forsake you', Hebrews 13:5 and ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’, Matthew 11:28
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