What Did We Talk About Today?

09/24/2006

What did we talk about today with our friends, with our family; with those we met as the day passed us by? Did we talk about the weather, the traffic, what we had for dinner last night, or our plans for the coming weekend?

Just asking…because there is a song that is especially poignant to me right now. It is a song by Casting Crowns called “Here I Go Again,” and the words go like this:

Father, hear my prayer
I need the perfect words
Words that he will hear
And know they’re straight from You
I don’t know what to say
I only know it hurts
To see my only friend slowly fade away

So maybe this time I’ll speak the words of life
With your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear is tearing at my words
What am I so afraid of?

‘Cause here I go again
Talkin’ ‘bout the rain
And mulling over things that won’t live past today
And as I dance around the truth, Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance to tell him that
You love him
But here I go again, here I go again

My heart is broken today because my very good friend, Sara, left this earth for Heaven just three days ago, and I miss her so. I want to e-mail her tonight, but I can’t, and there won’t be that familiar bright yellow message turning up on my computer screen from her.

I was asked today, “Was she your lifelong friend?” Lifelong friends get deep under our skin, they are a big part of our heart, we have a past together with many shared memories, and it is understandable that our heart would be broken when they are no longer with us. But Sara was not a lifelong friend, she was not even a friend of many years, I have known her all of about nine months…so why is my heart so broken?

If you’ll let me ramble on for a long bit, I may be able to paint a picture for you of what this last nine months with Sara has looked like and why saying, “Good-bye” to her is so very difficult. Or, maybe I’ll just ramble on to clear my own head and find God’s healing once again as one of His children makes their way Home…either way, thank you for indulging me in my need to write about this part of my journey in this life.

I first heard the song, “Here I Go Again” about 1½ years ago while painting a bedroom at my brother’s house with him. We talked as we painted, and we listened to the radio, and when this song came on he pointed it out to me as one he liked, because the words were so true. Little did I know at that time that these words would speak of my life on this day, and that I would sit by the bedside of a very dear friend and need to talk about more than “the rain, and mulling over things that won’t live past today.” Time was not a friend to my friend, but through it all, God was her Friend, and that’s what He sent me into her life to remind her of each time we were together.

Sara and I met after I gave my testimony in our church one Sunday morning. The topic that morning was about the power of the Holy Spirit, and I was asked if I would give about a five minute talk on God’s power, and how He brought me through the darkest valley of my life after our son, Phil, left this earth for Heaven. I agreed to do it, even though public speaking used to rate right up their with death itself in my book of fear. God has been helping me get over the fear of both…

After a clip of a video that was taken of me 4½ years ago, I sat on stage and spoke to a crowd that I could not see. The lights were bright, and I could not know who was out there except for the few that I knew who had come to support me and pray for me that morning. In that darkness sat a woman named Sara. I’m sure she was with her husband, Mike, because they always came to church together. At least while I knew them. They were not regular attendees on November 13th, 2005. How do I know this? Because Sara left a note at the information counter for me that morning, and this is what the note said. (I still carry it in my Bible.)

Dear Diane,
I don’t come to this service every week, but today I thought I needed God more. My son died 12/12/04 (he was 28) and I am dying inside. Coming here & listening to your message has given me hope & courage.
God bless you.
Best regards,
Sara
(She included her phone number and e-mail address.)

From what I remember now, Sara then entered the hospital for some surgery due to the fact that she was fighting Lymphoma at the time. I left for a vacation, and finally about January or so, we met for the first time. I drove out to Sara’s house and sat for about an hour visiting with her. We talked about our boys, and she showed me pictures of her son. She talked about Jacob being in the army, and had his burial flag and Bible displayed in her living room. There was a last picture taken with him shortly before he died, Jacob and Sara together, smiling, his arm around his mother who donned a scarf on her head covering her baldness from the chemotherapy she was going through.

During our visit, Sara would doze off for short 30-second naps as we talked. Her face was round from the steroids she had been on, and her hair was curly and short. Familiar sights to me as Phil’s face had also taken on that same roundness from his steroid treatments. I could tell Sara endurance level was very low, so after about an hour I asked her if she was tired. She said she was, and so I left. I had no idea that that was the beginning of a very dear friendship.

But how do friendships begin anyway? All different ways, and we can never know what a first “Hello” might develop into. Maybe it’s the same with God…I believe it is. If we will only take the time to say, “Hello.” To meet with Him for just a short while, those visits may grow in length over time, and our friendship with Him will develop into something we could never have imagined. We have to make that choice to take the time to be with Him even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at first.

Was it easy to drive out to Sara’s house for the first time?
No, it was not.
I did not know this woman, I did not know what to expect or what I was really even doing there.
Was there some great excitement about what we experienced that first hour together?
No, there was not.
There were some tears shed for the losses we had experienced with our sons.
There were some awkward moments between two women who didn’t seem to have much in common.
But there was a beginning of something wonderful, even if we could not see it yet.

God could see it, and He knew…He brought us together because we had more to talk about than just the “rain, or mulling over things that won’t live past today.”

Soon after that, I began driving Sara over to San Francisco. She needed to go to UCSF for her follow-up treatments. She was in remission from her Lymphoma, but they kept a close watch on her as she recovered from all that she had been through. We sat for hours together sometimes, in the clinic, waiting to be seen. It’s a very busy place.

As we sat, sometimes we talked, sometimes we were quiet, many times Sara would doze off and on. She was on fulltime oxygen at first, and very weak. She had been driving herself to the appointments that her husband could not get off work to take her to. I could not even imagine her out on the Bay Area freeways in her condition, but somehow, she had made it. After driving her a couple of times, she suggested to me on the drive home that she would now find another way to get to the doctor. She didn’t want to bother me…I said, “Sara, do you know the joy I feel in my heart in being with you on these trips to the doctor? Do you want to take that away from me?” I don’t think she quite understood what I was talking about, but she allowed me to continue to drive her to her appointments after that, as much as I wanted to. I was grateful.

Little by little, Sara and I got to know one another, and to tell you the truth, the more we did, the more we discovered how very different our lives were. We came from completely different life scenarios and I think the only three things we had in common in the beginning were that we both loved God, we both had lost a son, and we both knew cancer. For me, to be in the cancer clinic with her was second nature. I had gone through 5½ years of that with Phil. I was used to long waits, blood transfusions, tests, and what it’s like to wonder every day if the cancer that is in remission will rear its ugly head again…as it did with Phil, and as it did with Sara just a few short weeks ago.

But I believe God’s perfect design in this was that Sara’s cancer would stay at bay long enough for her friendship with God to take root, for her to know how very much He loved her—and during all of this, the time also allowed God’s love to bond us together deeply and forever. We will enjoy an eternal friendship in Heaven! John Fischer writes in the Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional, “Following Christ is not about joining a look alike contest; it is about the joy of finding our oneness in Christ in spite of our many differences.”

“We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.”
Ephesians 4:4-6

Because of that, tonight I have a very good friend in Heaven who has not only been reunited with her own son, but who is meeting up with my son also! What God taught me in helping Phil get ready for Heaven when cancer was taking over his earthly life, were the very same lessons God enabled me to use to help Sara get ready for her final trip Home as she worked through some very difficult issues. I couldn’t have known that at the time--that what I was learning with Phil would become very valuable a few years later--but God knew, and my only responsibility was to be available when God called. The rest, He would do.

This morning, as I prepared to go to work, I felt a heaviness…I knew it was mourning and missing and the pain that comes when we have to say “Good-bye” to someone who is special to us, but what I didn’t understand was that I felt a sense of responsibility. That was what was weighing me down so. I didn’t understand it until God revealed it to me this morning. Oh, if you had asked me, I could have voiced the words, but I don’t think I really got it until God made it clear to me.

What God helped me to know this morning was that there was nothing I could have done to prevent Sara’s cancer from returning, other than pray for her healing, which I did. There was nothing I could have done to change the day that was chosen for her final departure from this earth. There was nothing I could have done to alter what was. That was not my responsibility. If I had never met Sara, she would still be in Heaven today. What I was called to do was to be a part of her life this last nine months or so, as others were, and to walk alongside of her on her journey. Some of us were called to enter into her world to be her friend, to cook her meals, to help her complete projects, to teach her God’s Word, to encourage her, to pray for her, and even to give the final message of her life to others at her memorial service (Thank you Jodie)…whatever she needed--it was the body of Christ at work. It was like God said, “I want you all to step into Sara’s life for these final months and make sure she knows how much I love her, how I will never leave her, and how I am waiting here to escort her Home on the day that I have already chosen for her to be with Me.”

And how does a person do that? By loving. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12 NIV) God didn’t say to me, “Wow, here’s a great friend for you! You have so much in common, you’ll go on great vacations, you’ll enjoy all the good things in life together.” No, He said, “Here is my child, Sara, whom I greatly love, and she needs you to be Me right now in her life. There will be times when she will have trouble seeing Me, so you be there to remind her that I am with her. You be the ‘Physical Me’ when she needs someone to hold her hands as they dig into her hipbone to extract the bone marrow that is filled with cancer. You be there when the fear rises up and she needs to know that I am in control. You be there, you be Me to her, and together we will see her safely Home.”

Now, I didn’t know all this when Sara and I met! All I knew was that she left me a note with her phone number and e-mail address and the least I could do was contact her and see if there was anything I could do. I had no idea upon first meeting, that God was going to ask me to give her my whole heart, without reservation, and that in that giving I would get my heart so completely broken. But, I also didn’t know then that when all was said and done, I wouldn’t give up these last nine months with Sara for anything! Through her, my life has been greatly blessed. I have learned so much, and she also helped me face some of my own leftover “demons” that had stuck around since Phil left for Heaven--things that I thought were still too painful to face, but with Sara there was no choice. I had to be there for her, which meant I had to be there once again when the spinal tap tray was pulled out and uncovered one more time. I had to be there when the fear set in, and the chemo was given, and the hair began to fall out, and the all too familiar, “I’m tired,” and “I really don’t want to eat,” and “I think this is it…” words were spoken as I visited her bedside in the hospital.

I knew the signs, I had seen them before, and one thing I said to Sara through it all was that I deal in reality. I told her she was free to tell me to be quiet if she wanted to, but otherwise, I would be very truthful with her. I told her there were too many priceless conversations that I had with Phil before he left this earth that would have been missed had we not talked about the reality of what was, while continuing to Hope in the healing hand of God at the same time. Those memories with Phil are precious, and now I have similar memories of my friend Sara, and when I hear the words in that song, and they continue on with…

Lord, You love him so, You gave Your only Son
If he will just believe, he will never die
But how then will he know what he has never heard
Lord he has never seen mirrored in my life

This might be my last chance to tell him that You love him

I hope that what Sara saw mirrored in my life was the Hope that I have in the eternity we will all face one day. That was what God enabled me to do with my own son, and I have to believe He wanted me to remind Sara of that very same Hope. If we will not face the reality of our death, how can we possibly know the reality of the Hope of eternal life? We must deal in absolute Truth here.

One day I was visiting with Sara, and I asked her if I could just pray silently with her for a while. I told her she could just relax, even sleep if she wanted to, while I prayed. I pulled my chair up beside her bed and held her hand. Silently I prayed for her, silently I prayed for my own fears, I prayed for God’s strength to fill her, I prayed for many things, one of which was for God’s angels to fill her room. When I finished praying, Sara and I talked a bit. She wanted to know what I had been praying about. I told her about God’s angels being there in the room with us, even though we couldn’t see them. She said she could feel them…I asked her what she felt. She talked of how it was a feeling of Truth that filled her. She seemed to think that was silly…it was not! I told her it made such perfect sense because God is Truth, so why would His Truth not fill her as prayers were being offered up to Him? That sense of well-being in the midst of such difficulty, that is of God.

You see, Sara and I didn’t talk about the weather…we rarely did. We talked about Heaven and Hell, we talked about eternal life and where her son, Jacob, was. We talked about the forgiveness that is offered to all who will believe in God’s Son. We talked about the hurt that God can heal and the inheritance that awaits those who are called His children. We talked about real things, and it seemed every time we were together, we grew in our faith because we were not afraid to do that with one another. God made sure of that, because our being together was in His perfect plan. He had a child to get ready for a trip, and so He called in a buddy, so she wouldn’t be alone while she packed her bags.

Sara was supposed to be on a cruise this week with her family…that cruise got canceled as she entered into the hospital just three short weeks ago today. She was so disappointed, but she wanted to live, so she agreed to put the cruise off until the doctors could make her well again…but the doctors couldn’t make her well. The heavy doses of chemo caused other problems that eventually were too much for her, and she slipped away from us…Mike, her husband, was with her. Her daughters, Amy and Melanie, were on their way. So was I, with my best friend, Deb, who God had so amazingly brought to California for just such a time as this. He knew I would then need a buddy to help me during these final moments of Sara’s life…someone to walk beside me on this last leg of Sara’s journey, because it was going to be tough… God did not leave me alone in this…He poured His love and strength into me through my friend Deb, as well as through the prayers of others, just when I needed a shoulder to cry on in my own brokenness.

Sara left on a trip this week, but not the one she had planned. Her ship sailed through the Heavenly gates, and to tell you the truth, I felt like I got left there on the dock…with tears streaming down my face. When I walked into Sara’s ICU room, and she was so still and so quiet, and the tent she once inhabited was all that we could reach out and touch--I felt sort of abandoned by my friend. We had talked about all the wonders of Heaven and how awesome it was going to be and how our boys were there…and then she left without me, and all the questions she had and all the doubts…they were no longer of any concern for her. She was face-to-face with our Lord, but I had to remain here a while longer…I voiced this to my friend, Deb, and she said there will be many more ships…so I will wait, knowing that there is still work to be done…

Sara was not my friend, Sara is my friend. Our friendship did not end when she left for Heaven, anymore than my being Phil’s mother ended when he left for Heaven. Until my dying day, I will be Phil’s mom and he will be my son. Until my dying day, Sara will be my friend, and she’ll be my friend on into eternity because only her body died last Monday. Her spirit is alive and well and full of a joy that I cannot fully comprehend. Our time on this earth together was brief, but the time we have left to spend together in Heaven cannot even be calculated.

On one of Sara’s last days, she looked up at me and said, “I think this is it…” and I looked into her eyes and told her she would not be disappointed. She gave me one of her smiles. On another day, as I was standing at the foot of her bed, she looked at me and told me she was a sinner…I told her she was forgiven. These were my last chances to tell her that God loved her…and they were not to be missed.

This is tough stuff, but it is also the greatest of blessings. My friend, Deb, came to California for some rest and relaxation. What she walked into were numerous trips to the city during the dying days of a person she had never met--my friend, Sara. With just two days left of Deb’s “vacation,” we rushed to the city to say “Good-bye” to Sara. She was gone by the time we got there, but she knew we were on our way and perhaps that is all that she needed. And although we stood around her bed and grieved over our loss, I just had to stop for a moment and look up…wondering if Sara could still see us. Just in case, I smiled up towards Heaven, hoping our eyes would meet, even if hers were invisible to me…I wanted Sara to know that I knew where she was, and that I was happy for her. I wanted her to know that I would not be grieving as one without hope as it talks about in Ephesians. My Hope is secure in our Savior Jesus Christ, just as Sara’s was.

With just one day left before Deb had to return home to Florida, God blessed us through a friend--we were given one of those cool convertible trucks to drive around for the day. God knows the desires of our heart, and we are “convertible girls.” As my friend Terry brought me a quote tonight out of the book “Captivating,” it says, “For I am constant. I am near. I am the peace that shatters all your secret fears. I am holy. I am wise. I am the only One who knows your heart’s desires.” God knew our heart’s desires, and it surely seemed like He was saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servants,” go now and enjoy…it felt good to have the warm California sunshine on our faces and the wind blowing through our hair. If Sara could see us, I’m sure she was smiling and waving…with her son Jacob on one side of her, and my son Phil on the other!

Saturday, we will say our final good-byes to Sara, but I will be forever grateful for the time we had together on this earth. As time goes on, my heart will be healed by our Mighty God from the pain that I feel today, and I hope that whoever else God will bring across my path in the future, we will “speak the words of life” with one another…because the “rain” can wait, but the Truth about Jesus Christ and the eternal life He offered to all of us simply cannot!

Spread the Good News!

Diane