Tomorrow is Independence Day, a celebration of what it means to know free life. The Fourth of July marks not only that for me: it is both the anniversary of a friend’s spiritual birthday in 1950, as well as that of her “home-going” sixty-four years later. She’s been gone for three years now, and it still doesn’t seem possible that’s a reality; I can hear her voice as if it were yesterday. From the day I met her when I moved to this area in 2008, she said I was a kindred spirit and adopted me as a granddaughter. She called me her “Sweet Pea”; I called her my “Mama G”. She reminded me of the grandmother I lost when I was nine years old: Mama G’s quiet strength, obdurate determination, compassionate presence and vocal faith mirrored those of my Grandma Thelma. I was instantly at home with her.
Mama G was an example of the faith and perseverance of the saints to all who knew her. She modeled for me how one could live well with serious illness, something she coped with admirably for almost half her life: the chronic and inflammatory autoimmune disease Lupus targeted her as a young mother. Everything she did over the next decades came at a cost, but she counted it all worthy of the price she paid. She told me often with great sincerity that she counted it a true joy to share even a small bit of the suffering that was our Lord’s, and she lived out its truth. Her best friend says she had an “iron will”. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” She helped all her loved ones (in other words, everyone she knew) to be shaped into the mold of our Savior. In the spring of 2014, she contracted pancreatic cancer, the same disease took my Grandma Thelma’s life. They say it’s the most painful way to die: since the pancreas sits on a bundle of nerves that travel throughout the whole body, its sensations are akin to those of crucifixion. Though a nerve block relieved that pain for a while, in the end she suffered its fullness. Again, she counted it all joy and faced it with that iron will, her eyes on Jesus. A few short months later, she went Home to be with God. In life and in death, she celebrated free life that did not come without a cost; her soul at last found its final rest.
I am only one who loved this precious woman of God, she was precious to many, but I remember and miss her every single day. As I face each new dawn and dusk, I hear the words to one of her favorite hymns Carolina Sandell Berg, modeling the acceptant trust with which she lived all the days of her life, Day by Day:
|Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.