Friday, September 30, 2011

The Power of Words

Before Sara died, she asked me to speak at her wake. She didn't desire that I share with others memories of her. Rather, she asked that I speak about who she was in this world. She told me that she wanted people who came to see her as I spoke.  She also told me I wasn't allowed to cry. It would, she stated, "Make things less effective." Love her.  A friend who was present asked that I (Shannon) put it up for all of you, who were unable to join us at the service, to read.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Gail Caldwell wrote: "It's an old, old story. I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that too."  

Words are powerful. Uniting. They shape our view of the world, ourselves, each other. Words, in the best cases, make us immortal. Words are how I found her. Faith is what brought us together.

A friend send me an email, asking me to pray for a mother who knew she was going to lose her baby girl and carried her to term anyway. I immediately prayed, and then got online to read something called a blog. First time I'd read one. In. My. Life. I took in the entries from first to last, with tears streaming. My heart ached. I prayed. I returned again and again to follow this mom's story. In the process? 

I found Sara.

Our friendship was wildly unexpected. I linked to and as I read I heard her voice. HonestFull of FaithStrongTrue. Her words? They were her, and like a book waiting to be opened, I dove in. Heart first. Because that's how all of the great things in life are to be done. I sent an email explaining the similarities in our stories and assuring her that I'd never written to someone like this before, I wasn't creepy, and um, if she had some time, could we possibly correspond? She immediately replied with an, "Of course! I'd love to get to know you..." And, as it's said, the rest, for us, for was history. Day in, day out, doing "life" together. Only now, knowing what I do about her, does this response make me laugh. I'm quite sure that is how Sar answered every single person who contacted her. .

Sara did everything full throttle, both feet in, filled with intention and limitless enthusiasm, shown by the sparkle in her eyes for what most interested those she loved. She told me that the most important gift you could ever give someone was your full and undivided attention. Sara got it. She knew that to live well meant to treasure moments and seem them as gifts. She chose joy. Not happiness, which is as flimsy as a shirt blowing on a line in the breeze, but true heart joy which sustains through obstacles, disease, death. She make the hard choices. 



She chose community . Using her words to a build a life when her body failed her. She shared her faith boldly. She was realAlivePresent in every moment. She made those around her and those who shared her world via her words desire to enjoy their days as she would have...

No going back

No regrets

...taking the time to feel the sun kiss their cheeks and cause freckles, which she so missed seeing on her own. Sara lived. 




She was a daughter, a sister, a friend. She loved to sing. She loved to dance. She made the world's best volcano cake. She adored cheese...and Oreos, frozen and dipped in peanut butter. Some have called her inspirational. She was, but not intentionally. Honestly though? To me? She's simply Sara, my best friend. The one with the snort-filled laugh who made up songs for everything. She had eyes that twinkled and hugs that filled you up way past overflowing. She was my heart.

And here she is, proclaiming that it's not about her, in full Sara-get-the-last-word fashion. But this time? I have to disagree. Because it is about her, what He's done through her.It's about her taking the time to teach us through her words and her beautiful life how to be genuine and honest. How to love the Lord and follow Him. How to make our lives more outward focused than in. Loving well. Living well. Choosing joy. That was our gitz. And because here, in this place, she deserves the final word, I'll leave you with hers...

"Make it about Him, not you. Enjoy every second. Choose joy."

Well said, good and faithful servant. Well said.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Loving Well

It's as much a part of me as breathing, this friendship she and I have woven together.  In and out, up and down, encircling us. Never ceasing. Never slowing.

None of the breaks, skips, or hiccups that usually occur in relationships. Not a one.

We came together so seamlessly I don't  remember what my life, my days, my moments felt like without her beside me, even in a figurative sense. I know it sounds odd, the stuff of science fiction movies and creepy music, but our relationship has been like that from the beginning. I wake up when something happens to her or when she dreams and cannot bring herself out of it. She knows when I've hit my bottom and swoops in to scoop me up.  

Even our night times overlap. That silly red sports car she drives in the non-waking hours? It shows up for both of us. I tell her geniuses choose green and she laughs. I am thankful to hear it so strong, so clear. Her laughter is the mix of all things beautiful; soft undertones of leaves hitting each other as they fall, deep echoes surprising even me, knowing where it comes from inside of her, the final crescendo of a snort, which starts the process over anew.  

Then I wake up, check the phone for the familiar green blink in the upper right hand corner that signals all is right with the world.  I blindly feel for our necklace, the one she and I wear together, willing it to return to it's normal twinkling sound that is airy and so much like the upper notes of her.  It is eerily silent.  It has been so since Thursday. God's way of showing me her stillness. Even the chicks notice, asking, "Mama, why are you so quiet? We can't hear you coming anymore...." 

We were supposed to spend, as we've called it, "the highlight of our twilight" together. Not apart. Not with her there and me here...I knew this was coming when we both stopped joking about it.  I knew it. I knew that Christmas would be our last one together. I wanted it to be so special for her. Jay and I discussed it, with tears streaming down my cheeks as we drove those snow covered Iowa highways. Our girl was getting tired. 

She and I have often discussed her purpose here in this world. She is strong, so determined, so filled with the Lord. I love all of these things about her. Sara lives out our God's desire to for her to be a light. He is visible in and through her. She loves people well. She is everyone's best friend.  She's a resting place, buddy, sounding board, laughing partner, encourager. She's so much more to so many...

She's the other half of my heart.

She calls my husband brother.

She loves my babes as her own.

I've tried to see the world through her eyes for so long that I doubt I'll again view it through mine; this is one of her many gifts to me.  The way I feel the sun touch and warm the crown of my head, taking a moment to close my eyes and lean into the breeze and find the beauty in the simple. A gift from her. I could name a thousand gifts alone that come from our familyship as she has named it, but perhaps the greatest of all is one that cannot be named. One only felt. The wholeness of a love that fills your being and will not let go, even when time and space separate.

She has loved me well, and to do the same for her, I had to utter words that sliced me to the core. Syllables in a chain that have since doubled me in two with the deep grief that comes with silent, wracking sobs. Loving her well meant letting her go.

"...I'm praying for you. I asked Jason (last night) to start asking God to release you from this world. It seems like an odd prayer request for someone whom you love more than life, but I think it's time that I asked him to join me in the request to our God.  I know you're never complaining, but this world is making you weary and closing in..."

And her response

."...but I know that prayer can't be an easy one for you... because I know who you are to me - you're everything - and it would be so hard for me to let you go. but I imagine me there with you all the time. my hand on your shoulder every day, and it allows me to exhale. I do wish for that."

She is ready to go. Her purpose here finished, or maybe just begun. I've watched twitter and blogs go insane with her words, her contagious enthusiasm, her joy. Her family has surrounded her. Everyone who knows Sara is stronger, better, more beautiful in spirit.  We listen more closely, hug more readily, really let people in to our hearts. Loving others as our Father does, without judgement. Loving them well.

She's given all of us that.

But here, in these four walls where her face was a regular on the counter as I made dinner and we talked via Skype, we mourn, we miss, we wail, and, as she and I referred to it, become all "welly" at weird moments. Liquid coming up from a place deep inside which feels as if it may never be whole again. The flip sits unused this week in the cabinet, hidden from view so my heart doesn't have to process what we're losing. 

Once again, my heart whispers so she can hear, "Run, sweet love, run to your Father. In this moment, may you be free, be whole, be healthy. May you feel my love...."