by Linda Wooding
Six months ago, our NeighbourLink co-coordinator, Carol McCormack, called me to ask if I would be willing to visit a Hindu lady named Koki, who lived in North Vancouver. The woman had phoned her, in tears asking if someone could come and visit her on a regular basis. The Lupus disease she'd had for 18 years had progressed to such a point that she was now bedridden, which made her feel very isolated from the outside world. Her husband, Yogi, sons, and family were devoted to her care. However they went out to work and school and it could be quite lonely and boring for her. She was trained as an accountant and spoke four languages, but now she was limited to her bed; and, she did a lot from that bed!
Our first visit together was so interesting. Although I was a grandma and she was only 40, we had lots to talk about: crafts, which we both loved to do, our families, and the fact that we were both immigrants - she was from India and I was from England. While I was there, one of her friends, Pauline, dropped in to visit for a few minutes. We realized, as we talked, that we knew each other's families, years ago, so there was another little thread for us to relate to each other.
Initially, I was quite overwhelmed with how very sick she was. Yet her beautiful eyes were so full of life. She ran that home from her bed. She knew where everything was, in every drawer, cupboard, and closet in the house. One day, she told me she was going to clean up the garage on the weekend. I gave her a funny look, so she laughed and told me that she just points, and her husband moves things. That's how she kept track of everything. She told me that she did everything by talking. It reminded me that our Father “spoke” the world into being.
On the second visit I, was sitting on the edge of her commode, as there was not a chair close to her bed. She asked me how I came to visit, and I was telling her about NeighbourLink [an organization that provides friendship in our area] and mentioned that we often pray for the people we visit. She said, “I would like that.” So, because I was sitting awkwardly on the commode, and my back had a crick in it, I knelt beside the bed. (I don't usually kneel to pray, but,) when I opened my eyes, half the family was in the bedroom, listening to us! How blessed I was, when I left that day. What a joy it was, to be able to pray with her on the first visit. It usually takes me a month to be bold enough to ask if I can pray with someone. But, our God had other plans! Just before I left, it seemed God had told me to kiss her on the cheek, which is something I usually reserve for close family. I did it. And every visit after that, when we had finished praying together, she would anticipate the “Hug and Kiss” time, and not let me forget it.
We enjoyed many happy, golden moments, doing crafts. Its like she forgot she was sick, when we made things. It gave her a sense of accomplishment, showing the family the lovely things she had made. It was a joy to be in their home, and I got to know her husband and the boys and dear Bah, her mum, who was always offering me wonderfully tasty treats to eat. I felt so blessed to be embraced and welcomed into their family, at such a time of crisis. I was reminded of John 14 v 20…where it speaks of he who receives me receives Him who sent me…for each time we prayed I would remind her that we were praying to the God of the bible in the name of Jesus and she would agree. She told me, many times, that she always felt much better whenever someone prayed for her.
Our friendship grew rapidly, from a superficial level to a place where I loved her like a sister and wanted to please her. She drew that from me, through her weakness and her thankful heart. She often told me that I had legs that worked but hers were just ornaments. We are called to be Christ's hands and feet (legs). I went, willing to do whatever she needed or wanted, and I believe God used that to knit our hearts together. She once said that she knew that even if she told me to go away, I would come back. She was right, because that is what God wanted. He wanted her to know He loved her, and that's why he sent all these different people to her.
Each time we met, it felt like it could be the last time. But that also gave a sweetness to our visits, too. At Christmas, she was really sick and couldn't go, as she had in former years, to the concert at her friend Teresa's church. We wondered how we could bring a bit of cheer to her. So, I asked if she would like some children to come to her house to sing for her. She loved the idea.
We were able to arrange for about eleven children, from our church school, to come, and the principal, who is also the music teacher. It was amazing how they were able to fit it in, at such a busy time of year. But, God's fingerprints were there again! Some of the children were a bit nervous, going into someone's home, having never met them before. We prayed, in the car, before going in, and I told them that even if they didn't really want to do this, that I could guarantee that, when they came out, they would be so glad that they did it.
The singing went very well. We adults sang along, in between our tears of pleasure. Then, unexpectedly the children were treated to all kinds of goodies and pop. It was like a picnic, and they were all given goodie bags each too! I could not stop the chatter in the car, going back to the school. And it was not about the treats; it was as one girl said, "I met a new friend today and she's an adult." They were so excited; they suggested we go again, maybe once a month. I believe they could see how sick she was and how much joy they had given in that simple act of going to sing to her.
My friend said as the children left, "They gave me such joy; they gave me Christmas." (Christ) It was to be her last. The golden glow of that afternoon helped carry her along, for the next few days. Her mother, too, seemed to have been touched by that simple act of singing about Jesus' birth. What a wonderful message of hope we have to give.
One of the crafts we made were tiny angels made from different kinds of pasta. She really loved them and used most of them to put on their Christmas tree. But, so many of her visitors liked them, she gave some of them away. So, each time after that, when I would ask her what we should do, she would say she wanted to make more angels, to give away. Her hands were quite stiff, from the Lupus, so, we were limited in what we could do. We did not get time to make more angels.
In retrospect, I realized we shared many “forever words.” Although we didn't discuss the progress of the disease, she did find it a struggle, at times fighting it. We always had hope, and prayed for healing now, and God's ultimate healing for eternity, and grace for whatever lay ahead. One thing that really encouraged me was that she told me how she was always praying for God to help her, and how He sent help to her in so many ways: Mothers, at the school, praying for the family, neighbors dropping by, even a pastor from England, who shopped in her brother's store, 'phoned her to pray with her. Our God is so faithful.
One day, it was particularly hard to go to visit. She was in the hospital, and I was not full of faith. In fact, I was discouraged. Actually I was afraid. While I was driving to see her, there was a song playing on a tape in the car about “God in me and me in Him.” I know and believe that, in my head, but at that moment it struck me: HE IS IN ME! As I go into that room. THE CREATOR! I sobbed in the car, with that revelation. How can I be afraid? It is He who goes into that room with me. That visit was probably the most tender and precious time we spent, because it was not me, alone, going in, but He, by his Spirit, was there with us. Although there were terrible things going on in her body, there was such a joy, in the time we had together. As I left, she said, "Linda, I want you to know that you are not just stuck to Norm (my husband) forever, but to me as well." My response was that I really hoped and prayed that was true.
As time went by, I was able to see the body of Christ, functioning today, through us His children. Someone dug the soil in my friend's life. Someone planted seeds. Some faithfully prayed and watered. My part was to reap. What a joy (though full of tears). God did it through His children, by His Spirit. I was reminded of the Bible story, about the boy with the basket of loaves and fishes. He didn't have very much, but he put it in Jesus' hands. I'm not very good at talking, or witnessing, as some call it, but I love crafts and am willing to do whatever would help express God's love. In His kindness, He let it be crafts this time! We all have loaves and fishes. Mine just happened to come in a craft box.
I was not the answer, for my friend. However God asked me to be willing to go to her house, to step into her life, to embrace her, as one of His children. His fingerprints were everywhere. He made the opportunities. His word is a lamp to my feet. A lamp only gives light for one or two steps at a time; that's scary, but exciting too. We read in Proverbs 22…"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones." I learned so much from her cheerful determination, to care for her family, and to participate in their lives. She was a true example of that scripture. I was in awe of her courage and constantly challenged in my faith. My presumption was that, I had come to give yet I was receiving and learning, but that's how our God works.
On January 26th, it was her 41st birthday. She was out of bed, insisting on sitting at her desk, with the ever-present oxygen tubes trailing. Another friend came by to visit her and she asked us to help her to choose her sons grad photo. We all chose different ones. We joked with her that if she had this much trouble choosing a photo for his grad, how hard was it going to be choosing a wife for him!! We all laughed; it was such a happy day, and she seemed so strong. It was time for me to go, and it was a bit noisy, so I just gave her a quick hug, but she took my hand and said, "You can't go on such a happy day as this, and not say thanks in prayer to God." I was humbled again, and so we prayed, there at her desk with her husband standing quietly behind me. I had nearly missed a privileged moment.
The next time I saw her, a week later, she was in a coma and on life support. We couldn't joke anymore, or tease each other. She couldn't ask me to pray; yet all I could do was pray. How I even got in to see her was amazing, as there was only family allowed. But, somehow my name was there on the visitor's list. I then remembered who it was, that was in me. And, as I was later to find, we were truly sisters, in the family of God.
The next few days were the most painful. The friend whom I'd come to love was leaving. And, although people in coma's can sometimes hear, they are unable to respond. I was able to pray, and to reassure her of God's promises, that if we call on Him we shall be saved. I once saw what could have been a teardrop, but she could no longer talk to me. My heart was so sad, wondering, "Did she really believe? Did she know God's love and Jesus sacrifice?" On Friday of that week, she was gone. Although it was expected, I'd hoped God would do a miracle of healing. But, His utter kindness is perfect.
Several of her Christian friends, and my husband and I were invited, by the family, to the viewing of the body. We had not realized that this was a ceremony only for family and close friends. We were all a bit hesitant about what we should do, as people were called up to the casket. One friend heard someone ask the grandma, “Bah,” why we were there. The grandma said, "Sisters, good Christian friends."
Unknown to me, there lovingly laid in the casket, along with the beautiful saris, was a little pasta angel, put there by her mum.
Because my friend and her mum had enjoyed the children singing at Christmas, they asked if we could bring some children, or adults, to sing at the funeral, the next day. This called, again, for Father to do some arranging. He did. There were five children and nine adults, all ages, even to white hair! I reminded the family that we would be singing Christian songs. That was fine, they assured me, then I was asked if I would introduce her friends and say a few words. I just do crafts!
My friend crossed boundaries. Her best friend was of Muslim faith, and another was Jewish. It was a Hindu funeral, and some of us were Christians. My heart was that the Lord would give me words of comfort, for the family especially, and also for the other folks there. There was not much time, and I remembered how my friend had told me, as we read a verse one day, that it described her; she always had her hands lifted up, crying out to God, everyday, "Help me, help me." I believe He did. She would often ask me why I bothered to keep coming. I would remind her that it was to tell her of God's love for her. I didn't realize, at the time, that she was God's child, a sister, and He was sending us, to reassure her of His love.
The verse I believe God gave me was from Psalm 34 "The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers them out of all their troubles. He keeps all his bones not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned."
The funeral was very beautiful, although painful and sad for me, saying goodbye to a friend I'd grown to love in such a short time. Still not quite sure we were “stuck together for ever.” as she had said. It was a few days later that her neighbor, who had so faithfully prayed with her, told me that she had prayed a prayer of repentance and committed her life to the Lord. What a whoop of joy I gave, knowing we will meet again. We truly are "stuck to each other forever."
God's fingerprints were on everything. But, not until it was over did we see HIS HAND, yet it was there all the time. And, the story hasn't ended yet. God asked me to do crafts with a lady. I was welcomed into her life forever. (YES!)
Author: Linda Wooding. Used with permission from ASSIST News Service.
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