This first week of June seems to have come upon us way too quickly! Wasn’t it just Valentine’s Day a few days ago? This week may have sneaked up on me, but it has contained a myriad juxtaposition of memories and emotions. On Tuesday, the first day that I sat down to start this blog, (which is number forty for me, by the way!) I was filled with joy at the prospect of my, now fifteen year-old, niece’s birthday. She is our third, and youngest female child. She is my Box Car Children buddy and my old movie buff. She is a breathtaking beauty with blue eyes and dimples, is a mixture of feminine and fierce, and is her own unique person! This particular day was also the same day, fifteen years ago that began the longest, short five days of my life.
Now today, five days later on Saturday evening, as I sit to finish up this blog post, it has been a fun, joyful, forward-looking type of day. The previously mentioned fifteen year-old’s older sister, and my oldest niece, was given a bridal shower today, per her pending nuptials at the end of this month. The day was beautiful, the venue awesome and she was beautiful! It was such a fun party and such a great day! But, still…on this particular day, June the ninth, for me, there are bittersweet memories tinged with sadness that are mixed in with the joy and anticipation of this new beginning.
I was there the night that my oldest niece was born. Oh my how amazed I was when I looked into her little face and saw those beautiful, puffy red lips! It was absolutely love at first sight! She has been part of my heart from the very first moment I held her. Then, as it turned out, I did not get to be there the night my fifteen year-old niece was born. Fifteen years ago, this past week, when she was being born, I was with my older brother, my middle niece and my sister-in-law. My brother and I were trying to get through each day and keep a five year-old’s innocence somewhat intact from the unsparing realities of life and death.
My sister-in-law had courageously battled breast cancer for right around three years. Oh my! What an intense, never-quit fighter she was! But then, she had a reason to fight! She had waited to have a child until they were in a stable place financially and settled a bit. At this point, the first week of June, 2003, her little girl had just turned five, and there was no way, no how that she was giving up even an inch! And even at five, my niece was fiercely protective of her mom. Though she did not realize what the future held, I think instinctively, she knew.
One of the most vivid memories that showed their bond was three years earlier. I was staying with them after the initial breast surgery. My niece had just turned two, so my sister-in-law tried to keep her from seeing her incision or even her bandages; but where ever mama was, she wanted to be also. One afternoon, my niece came into the TV room and climbed up into the rocker. She was trying very hard to get her shirt off. I had no idea what she was doing, but she was ding-dang determined to get her shirt off, so I helped her take get it off. She had snagged a roll of medical tape and was trying to tear a piece off. My sister-in-law told me to tear a piece off for her. I tore off a piece about three inches long and handed it to her. Oh my, this child of my heart! She put it over her chest above her heart and then wanted to put her shirt back on. Man! Talk about reality hitting you in the face.
Nearly everything that my sister-in-law did from the time of her diagnosis was to make memories for her little girl. A lot of times she just let things go to be able to play with the joy of her life. She would stand her up on a chair and let her help her cook. Making pizza is one of the vivid memories that my niece has of her mom. They went to the park. They did crafts, and they just left them out so they could do them again. They played on the swing set in the yard. They spent time with her family and my family. She lived every moment of life that was given her and she spent her days loving her little girl.
Then fast forward down the road to the day my youngest niece was born. I had just gotten the call that my niece had been born and that both mama and baby were fine. As I was washing my sister-in-law’s face, I told her that the baby had been born. Though she was very weak, she just put her hand up and held on to my hand, smiled and cried. She had wanted to be able to see her so badly. If there was one thing that she loved, it was babies, and she would have loved this little blue-eye bundle too! That day was the turning point. She went down hill pretty quickly from there. Then after those longest, short five days she finished her earthly journey.
Life gives us one time around. We can make the best of the years we are given, or we can waste them away. Will our lives be lives that are well-lived or will they be spent chasing after all the things that the world has to offer? My sister-in-law was a forward looking person. She was a preschool teacher and she loved her students and they loved her right back. She was very family oriented. They spent a large majority of their Friday evenings with us. Many times during those stays, she would have some big project spread out all over the family room floor that she was working on for her students. She was not only making a difference in the life of her own child, but also in the lives of the many children that she taught each day. She was making the best of the years she was given.
So many times we get hung up on having the perfect life, on having the perfect body, on having the perfect home, or the perfect family. We sacrifice the life that God intended for us to have to the gods of perfection, materialism, pleasure or social significance, while scrimping and scraping up a sparse effort in service to our Lord. We think if we maintain a moral life, drop a few coins in the plate, or grace our local churches with our presence occasionally, (as long as there is not a better offer,) that we are doing our part.
I have been very heavily convicted over the past year that this is not “doing our part.” This is no where near to doing our part. I can tell you pretty confidently that sitting comfortable in our pews, week after week, month after month, year after year, sometimes even decade after decade, without any outward motion is not doing our part. Where is the sacrifice? Where is the extra effort? Where is the enthusiasm? Where is the joy? What is our part? Do we even care? Or are we going to wait until it is too late to find out? I would hope that we would not wait until it was too late. I want to encourage you to read the scripture passage that I read at my sister-in-law’s funeral. (Link here: I Corinthians 13 – Living Translation) I think it is one that we could all stand a refresher on and use as application to our lives going forward.
So here on this ninth day of June, 2018, I commemorate a life well lived and encourage all of us to look inside and see where our courageous battles lie.
Love and miss you Kimmy!
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7 – KJV)