She caught my curiosity as she carefully shuffled in high heel shoes across the Fellowship Hall. Elegantly dressed, she gave a generous smile to everyone she passed. I guessed her to be not much older than me, maybe late fifties, and very frail.
She seemed a bit disoriented when she stopped me in the middle of the room to ask where the cream and sugar was.
I pointed to a table by the wall. “Right over there.”
She nodded and smiled with hazy blue eyes, and looked over at the table. “Thanks” Then back at me, and held out her hand. “Hi, I’m Sheryl.”
We began our talk and chatted lightly for a short while before our discussion plunged deeper. She began to share about her lifelong journey of survival, and amazing testimony of God’s goodness. It took my breath away, almost 4 years ago. Little did I know then how the Lord would work in and through our newly kindled friendship.
I pondered how anyone could live so long with all the health challenges she had faced through the years: Type 1 diabetes - diagnosed at age 11; Quadruple Bypass at fifty-three; Stage 4 Renal Failure; Congestive Heart Disease; Cancer; Pulmonary Artery Disease. Yet, her illnesses seemed mere inconveniences whenever she spoke of them. Moreover, she never failed to give credit to the people who had helped her along the way. Then, she would add with a genuine smile, “I’ve been very blessed.”
The Lord had revealed to me a special person, a kindred heart for a season. With enthusiasm, Sheryl invited me along to ride with her on the last portion of her remarkable journey in life. And I accepted.
As her health continued to decline, I became her Thursday girl who took her to the doctor of choice she had scheduled for that day.
When I arrived at her house, she always greeted me with a broad smile and tight hug as I made it through the door. We would confirm our travel plans as we got into my car, speculating on where to have lunch. She loved sugar and I love salt.
Even when she was not feeling well, she always seemed gallantly willing to tackle the day.
The doctors seemed amazed when she made it for yet another visit. She entered their examining rooms. “I’m still here,” she would remark with a tune of appreciation. She was a live demonstration of a life of faith, with a warrior’s heart, not giving in to despair. She had a passion for living.
Most of the docs would look over her chart with a pained expression, as if they were mentally wrestling with some strange enigma. By this time, I figured most of them concluded that the best they could offer was compassion.
However, it seemed that, for Sheryl, her illnesses were merely a sideline for discussion to justify the social call. In general, she relished the time she spent with people, listening to their stories, asking questions, and then taking a personal interest in what they had to say. Nothing seemed more important to her than the person she was with.
I wondered if her doctor friends were getting it. I hoped they were paying attention to her dance with the Lord to music only she could hear. She was beauty in motion, and living proof of the Lord’s never ending mercy and grace.
I noted despondency in most of them as they left the room at the end of the visits. I felt sad for them, as I assumed they did not believe like Sheryl and I in the glorious outcome that awaited her.
They were of the extremely educated world, with all the latest technology at their fingertips. Even so, I considered they were sadly missing the point, the most beautiful truth ever presented to humanity, A college education was never required to receive the gift of Christ. A college education was never required. It was not the doctors who had the true life saving knowledge, but Sheryl.
After the appointments, we went to lunch, and then to Bible study…the most important appointment of the day. Our little group united in a common cause to care for Sheryl, taking on the honor of being the heart and hands of Jesus.
We all learned together. By using Sheryl, the Lord taught me more about unconditional love, friendship, and how to celebrate life.
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