"We are not alone, we live in God’s world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and
risen, our judge and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God."
The part that I've been saying almost like a mantra is "in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God."
I wasn't going to tell anyone about this because I'm not the one who needs sympathy. I don't need meals or cards but all day my fingers have been dying to put this into words. Maybe for memory?
Last night I received a phone call. It was one of those phone calls that you know is going to bad news. You know it before you answer it. . . . let me back up. It is a long story.
My mom died when I was a Sophomore in high school. When I was around 20 years old, my daddy married again - a lovely Southern lady by the name of Joann. They were married for five years . . .until his death.
Fast forward over the next 30 years or so . . .we saw Joann at Christmas time. Back when the children were small I would invite everyone over for a get-together around Christmas time and she would always come. She came when Glenn and Laura were newborns and I have a picture somewhere of her holding one of them. Later on, I took the kids to see her several times when they were young. She had moved from our town to a town about an hour away to be near her sister and family. We exchanged birthday cards and Christmas cards and we chatted on facebook and . . . we didn't do a good job of keeping in touch like we should.
I talk to one of my sisters almost every morning as I drive to work. Just yesterday morning, I said that we needed to do a better job of keeping in touch with Joann. We talked about her for a few minutes and the conversation moved on. All day yesterday I felt an urgency to get my work completed. I thought it was just because we were going out to dinner last night and we have friends coming over this weekend. Instead it was for this reason:
Joann's sister called to tell me that Joann was diagnosed with cancer two days ago and was given only a few days to live. I texted a co-worker because I was waffling about whether to drive an hour to see her this morning. Did I need to miss work?
I called Sis (Joann's sister) early this morning and asked if I could come and she said yes. She called me back while I was getting dressed and said that Joann was now unresponsive. I quickly dressed, jumped in the car, and drove for an hour and 15 minutes. I once again felt a sense of urgency.
I arrived to a quiet hospital room. Joann's sister (who is on oxygen herself) sat quietly by the bed. Sis no longer drives and her husband died this year. A friend has been picking her up early in the morning and driving her to the hospital.
I pulled a chair up beside her. She was holding Joann's hand. Sis removed her hand and said, "here - you hold her hand."
First of all, I'm not a crier. Second of all, I knew I was going to be sad but didn't expect to cry. Just FYI - I did cry. Several times.
Sis and I sat there and talked with Joann and held her hand. I told Joann that I loved her. I told her that it was ok to go be with Jesus. I reminded her that she taught me to eat peanut butter toast (which I still love!). If we dirtied a glass, she washed it before it hit the sink. She put up with me when I was a very bratty young adult. She let me borrow her "evening bag" many years ago and there was cash in it -- because I might need to take a cab home from a date. She met me before work one morning when I was working full time and going to school at night to give me money for books one semester because I could either buy books or groceries. I stayed in her quiet hospital room for about an hour until more relatives arrived and I got in my car and I drove an hour and 15 minutes back to Birmingham.
Those words have been in my head all day today. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We ARE NOT ALONE.
I shared with Sis about "thin places" where heaven and earth meet. I said that Joann had one foot with Jesus and one foot in the hospital room with us (if this is not theologically sound, so be it - it is comforting to me). JOANN IS NOT ALONE - though she can't speak; though she is unaware of what is going on around her - she is not alone. God is with her. He is with us every single moment of our lives and beyond.
Yesterday Joann was still alert. She has been very active in her community. She has volunteered faithfully in the library. She has served in local politics. She loved Jesus and was active in her church.
Sis told me that yesterday there was a steady stream of people -- from the mayor to the fire chief and everyone in between . . .and they told Joann that she had lived a good life. They told her how much she meant to them. They told her they loved her. I was told that some of those big strong men even cried. All of those affirmations were wonderful - how awesome to hear words of affirmation on your last alert day but OH MY GOODNESS - she is getting ready to hear Jesus say to her, "well done good and faithful servant."
I haven't had an update on Joann this afternoon but I'm assuming she is still in that thin space - her eyes are fixed on Jesus. He is going to make her whole. I can't imagine what she is going to stir up in heaven.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
|My sister Becky and Joann|