The past two weeks we have continued to work on the kitchen. There are things that are taking time and our momentum is slowing a bit. The summer tugs at us and the beach is calling.
And Life happens. Not all of life is about living. Dying is an inevitable truth; none of us get out of this alive. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death and so each of us knows, if we are honest with ourselves, that death is the deserved wage we must pay for the offenses we commit against the holy God.
For the past several years it has been my great pleasure to come to know and love two dear ladies that started attending our church after they were invited by a friend. These ladies stepped into our lives shortly after my parents moved far away leaving my two younger daughters without any grandparents close by. These dear ladies were retired and lived together as best friends helping each other care for their biological families and for the families the Lord has given them in the church. A few times a year my children would delight in visiting the ladies for craft days where they would use their budding talents to make gifts for birthdays and Christmas to give to Mr. FixIt and me. They loved their time with the ladies and I loved the time to spend alone with my husband. Their care for us was a blessing to be sure. They became adopted grandmas to my girls.
ALS and a form of Parkinson's Disease attacked one the dears and it has been a gradual process as the diseases broke down the body. Doctors gave their prognosis but we know that it is God who has established the number of our days from before time began. With this in mind our church body rallied in a united effort to help our dear sister finish well. I am still learning of the many different ways that people have stepped in. We did not "coordinate efforts" but rather just did as each of us could- kinda like a tapestry. I was just a small thread. My part was Wednesdays. I would go sit with her while her friend took a few hours of much needed respite-just to clear her head, do some errands and step outside the home. She worked tirelessly on her friend's behalf and the sacrifice and love poured out by her words cannot do justice other than to say that I saw God Almighty love his ailing child through the service of this woman. One of my first Wednesdays left me laughing. The illnesses had taken the gift of speech from my friend but it had not taken her spunk. She did not want a "baby sitter" and that is how she was seeing me. This very timid, quiet, reserved woman quickly let me know that I could sit in the front room in a chair-by myself- while she ate her lunch. I asked her if I was being banished and she simply chuckled but firmly pointed to the front room....so, obediently, I went. She was my elder by 25 years or so and I was reminded that regardless of the diseases her faculties were all there and she was not a child. (A lesson that I learned many times over.)
Time wore on as did the ALS and Parkinson's. Wednesdays got quieter. She worked a program on her Ipad for a while that allowed her to put together sentences but never had been a big talker so it was not her favorite tool. About six months ago she lost the use of the only hand that would work and she lost her 'voice' completely. Often, my mind would suppose the struggles she must be having to be trapped inside a body that would not allow her to communicate. I prayed many times that her faith would not fail. I was reminded of how Christ stood before his accusers, silent. The Bible tells us that we have been called to share in his sufferings. Here, in my sweet friend, was a picture of these things so tangible that I could not help but be humbled. Every Wednesday God witnessed to me of His great love and care. I would talk to her. I would make jokes and she would laugh. I would sing the promises of God and she would cry. Her mind was ever present.
A call came a two weeks ago that made me dash over. She was failing and her friend and caregiver needed reinforcement. Our pastor showed up shortly after. We saw her take what would be the start of morphine regime. As our pastor held her hand I prayed silently but as loudly before the Throne of Mercy as if yelling at a Patriot's game. We know that God works all things together for good for his children. If He has chosen to give this suffering we know it is meant to bless her and us in the process. I sang. She cried. Her breathing quieted and she rested. God is good.
The next Wednesday found me sitting in silence while she slept. She did awake for a short time. I sang. She cried. (Mr.FixIt wanted to know if she requested more morphine when I sang- always a joker!) I don't have a great voice but I do love to sing. She loved to play piano. It seemed to me that God spent a life time ministering to her through music and it does resonate in our hearts. She went back to sleep. Her friend, our sister-in-Christ, was told that she was not "actively dying" and could continue on this way for several weeks. My family and I had plans for a mini vacation with another family from our church and so we went Thursday afternoon.
That evening the call came. She was going home. I talked to her via the speaker phone. "Eyes to Christ, Ruthie!" In the wee hours of Friday morning surrounded by our pastor and his wife, her best friend/caregiver, a brother (what a blessing from God he has been) and his wife, our deacon, and at least one other family member she was ushered home by songs and the reading of the Word of God. Her eyes closed here for the last time..... and opened there to Eternity. Oh, the beauties that she awakened to! Oh, all the promises and hopes finally realized! Oh, to see the face of our King as he welcomed her home.
This weekend we will say our final farewells publically as we lay her body to rest. We know that this is only for us. She is not here! The body was a jar of clay that held a treasure. She is not here! At one point I remember saying to her that soon she would be singing and dancing before the Throne of Grace. Her friend said "Aw, she's not much for dancing" to which I replied "Oh, she will be!" Words to a song..."Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel. Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?" Whatever she is doing before the Lord she is doing it without pain, her voice works, day has no end and death has been conquered. Well done, you have fought the good fight and the prize that you have run the race for is yours forever. He is your portion! Until we meet again, around the throne.....