Sara is dying. Knowing this keeps her present in my mind and prayerful in my heart.
For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have played this little game; well, less a game and more a practice: Whenever anything happened to someone we know–and by anything I mean typically a bad thing–we'd try to imagine how we'd hope to respond to the circumstance.
When friends walked the trek of infertility, what would we do if I couldn't get pregnant? Would we adopt? Would we invest in treatments that might change the mind of my womb?
When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer (after both my mother and grandmother died from the disease), what would we do if the same lot fell to me?
When our dear friend Cindy suffered permanent brain damage as a result of an accident and her husband left her, would we have remained committed to our marriage when personalities changed?
How would our lives under fire reflect Christ?
Our logic, I suppose, was to think through how we wanted to behave to live out the pre-eminence of God in our lives. Talking about and thinking out loud before we were walking through unexpected tragedy--before feelings and emotions stirred reaction–was our way of orienting our minds and preparing in advance to make good decisions, tough choices, when life got hard.
Because life gets hard.
So we'd watch how others responded in their difficult circumstances, and talk through and imagine how we'd hope to respond if we were in their shoes. Sometimes we'd find ourselves hoping we'd respond the same way; in other instances we'd pray that out response would be vastly different.
Because of Sara's illness, she has been confined to her apartment for years…years…pain, her body's often-companion. The past several weeks have been the worst, which is saying a lot.
Sara's response to her debilitating, life-ravaging illness? Joy.
I met Sara through our writing team at incourage. For the past two years, she has been a consistent voice of encouragement to me–through her words on her blog, comments to my posts, emails or skype conversation, and most recently, text messages. Telling someone they're consistent is one of the highest compliments you'll ever receive from me–in every instance she has ~
- been completely candid and honest, admitting her struggle or physical pain, yet remaining faithful
- luminously reflected Christ in her, great hope of glory
- acknowledged God's sovereignty and conceded that even her illness is part of His redemptive plan, to bring…to live…the Gospel, in a way not possible in perfect health.
Sara realized this week her death was imminent; on Tuesday she admitted through a heartbreaking-to-me-text that she felt different, that she thought it would happen soon. And she was ready.
Jessica, a precious friend of mine and a best friend of Sara's, has been in close contact with Sara and her family over the past several days. Everything that Jess shares demonstrate's Sara's consistent voice of praise to God, and love and consideration of others, concerned about how everyone else is doing.
She's worried about us and how her death will affect those who know and care about her!
She's not fearful. She is ready. She's wants you to know Christ.
Last week at our incourage writers retreat in Hilton Head Island, SC, we Skyped with Sara. Thanks to technology, we showed her the beach and our beautiful setting. As best we could, we hid the tears. The moment–pure joy…broken beauty; we sensed its importance and captured it.
Through her illness and suffering, Sara is sharing and living the Gospel in a way not possible had she enjoyed perfect health. Left to me, she would have been healed right away and avoided this painful road; but in God's mysterious ways, He has deemed Sara worthy to tell a much different story.
Her faithfulness and beauty in the telling has changed lives, not through her own power but from the power that lives in and through her.
Sara had a decision to make so she chose joy and invited all of us to do the same.
Sara is dying well.
Sara has modeled how I'd hope to respond if I ever found myself in a similar circumstance…I'd want to respond just like her.
That is the highest compliment I'll ever give.
* * * * * *
Matthew Paul Turner (Jessica's husband) has written an achingly beautiful tribute for sweet Sara Frankl (aka @gitzengirl) I hope you'll take time to read. (Jessica's post today also has links to others who are sharing their thoughts about Sara's impact in their lives; her family is reading every account out loud to Sara.)
Steven Curtis Chapman's song With Hope has been incredible blessing this week; listen below, read the heart-lifting lyrics, and I think you'll be greatly encouraged. When you have hope, don't you have everything you need?
With much love,
This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but …
We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again
And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and …
We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so …
So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope
We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope