Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sadness is a Part of Life; Death is Inevitable

My sister was my hero. For almost 40 years she battled Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). She was in a wheel chair for the last 20-25 of those years. In all that time, I never heard a complaint or a negative word. She remained optimistic with her faith intact.

When people would visit, it was they who went away uplifted. Her laughter and bubbly personality never wavered in spite of her disability. When her speech began to falter, I remember sitting with her hoping to understand what she was trying to say. I began a game of charades to help her express what was on her heart. This resulted in a raft of giggles from both of us until I finally discovered her meaning.

“Thank God my sister is still in there,” I remember thinking.

The last time we were together I wasn’t so sure. By this time she was almost comatose. Her large eyes stayed open. What I thought were tears of joy at our meeting were only her body’s response to moisten her eyes. Her skin was radiant and wrinkle free. She had not a gray hair on her head. How could she be so ill and look so beautiful?

I decided it was her spirit shining through. The nurse fed her a noontime lunch with a syringe filled with nutrients which she inserted into Jean’s feeding tube. This caused her breathing tube to bubble and froth as she took air in and out. I wiped the spittle from her mouth with a towel and felt honored to be able to do this for her, helping her through this arduous humiliating ordeal.

Somewhere inside did she recognize me and know I was there? I hope so. I had only been home a few days when I received a call that she had passed away. Had she held on long enough to see me? So many close calls had come and gone. She was in and out of the hospital on the brink of death throughout the past 20 years.

I will miss her. I miss the beautiful person she was and the person she continued to be through all the ups and downs, the falls, the concussions, the broken ribs that occurred as she fought to stay upright on her own. I will miss her courage and her optimism. She fought a good fight. She remained faithful and true. Those who knew her and loved her were the better for having known her.

We are not alone. People notice us wherever we go even though we may not know it. We influence for good or bad everyone around us; a small act of kindness, an encouraging word, a warm hand reaching out to comfort do not go unnoticed. The gifts of the soul are simple and free, but they last forever.

She is in a better place. I imagine her dancing and singing and doing all of the things she was prevented from doing; a prisoner of her horrible disease. Sing Jean!  Dance Jean, rejoice and be glad for the Lord your God shall shelter you from all pain and sickness.

Artist of My Soul

O Lord of light, of form and hue,
   Who has created all things new,
Create in me, from shapeless clay,
   An instrument on which You play.

God of the dance that planets tread,
   Who walks beside and soars ahead,
O let me move to worship Thee,
   Come, Holy Spirit, dance with me.

God of the Living Word, Poet of Time,
   Teach me Your words
   in Your cadence and rhyme.

O Lord of beauty, Lord of art
   Who gives a song for every heart,
Carve out my life, reshape and mold,
   And be the Artist of my soul.

(He hath put a new song in my mouth.
 Psalm 40:3 NIV)