Originally published in HerWord.com on January 23, 2013.
A couple of weeks ago, I paid my last respects to a woman I hardly knew. We had never met, our lives had never crossed, and I knew of her only through the narrative of her last weeks and days. I had stumbled upon it quite unexpectedly, on a day when I was busy ruminating on my own problems. I had been wallowing in self pity and despair, and oblivious to all around me, I was sick with worry.
I followed her story, went back over older posts, and read from where I could, months from where I first heard of her. There were plenty of days of sorrow, when her life hung in the balance and her sickness overwhelmed her frail body. But as equally important — or perhaps more — there were more days of joy and hope, when her spirit never wavered and when the strength of her will overcame the onslaught of a terrible disease. When she lost her final battle, I felt deeply compelled to say goodbye. It was as if I had already known her, even during those short months.
I often think of her these days, as I wonder and pray for the family she left behind. I am amazed at the resilience and calm she displayed even during the most turbulent days of her life. And I think of her faith, marveling at the strength of it that she rejoiced daily in her Lord even in the midst of pain and sickness.
I think of her often because unlike her, I did not learn faith so easily.
I have always been a worrier. For as long as I remember, I have always been a bundle of raw nerves wrapped in a seemingly imperturbable layer of good cheer. I remember long nights of sleeplessness even as a child, as I pondered heavily over the fears I faced daily. Rejection. Bullying. Failure. I was determined to master myself and show no fear. For a long, long time, I hid the scars of my hurt behind sunny smiles, my chewed off, often bleeding nails the only outward sign of my despondence.
When I look back now, I know why. In my clumsy attempts to control my unwieldy life, I had never allowed myself to trust anything or anyone completely. I grew up believing that I could only trust in myself to follow the trails I had made in the world. I was meant to be self-sufficient, I always thought. And while I knew of a greater power that held sway over all our lives, I always stood far from Him, my shame and despair all mine to carry.
Even in the moments when true love came into my life, I was hesitant to yield control and let go. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the goodbyes that were surely meant to come, for the dark days that would unquestionably loom ahead. I never allowed myself to experience happiness without the caution of a broken heart. I always lived in fear.
My deliverance came many years later, at a time of crisis. For close to a year, while I made war with the demons of my son’s illness, I was stuck in the pit of darkness, fear, and desolation. In truth, I still don’t know how to tell this story without continuing to be amazed at the events that brought me here and now. For when I was almost at the end of my rope, I heard Him calling out to me. In those days and nights when all I could do was pour my heart’s grief in a long litany of tears, I finally learned to trust in someone other than myself. I had to be broken to be healed.
And so, I think of that woman whose childlike faith inspires me to open my heart to trust and faith and and I envy her. She was light years ahead of me in wisdom and grace. They say that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This is the one lesson I gratefully accept from her. Even close to death, she celebrated her life always as a beginning, as a chance to be reborn daily in love and spirit. I have only begun to understand.