A few weeks ago, I posted about the loss of an African sister. Loss is something that we experience quite a bit here in Africa and it never gets easy.
On the flip side, my time as a missionary has also means that I experience loss on the OTHER side of the ocean. Sometimes it’s really hard to not BE there…….Like the time when my best friends father passed away and I was an ocean away wishing I was by her side. Or the time when another friend lost her twin baby boy’s within days of each other. Thankfully, we’ve not experienced the loss of an immediate family member, but I know those days are in the horizon as well and I can’t even think of those to be honest.
It’s during these moments when I feel the sacrifice of the calling that the Lord has put on my life. Most of the time, I don’t really think about it too much, but when it comes to life events, it’s hard to be so far away. I am so thankful for the Lord’s Grace and Love that gets me through those moments. Thankfully also, we have the power of technology that allows us to “be” someplace through a computer screen or reach out via a quick email.
Yesterday in the mix of opening a much needed care package from my sister, she sent me a message saying that my dear friend Marian had passed away. My heart fell.
Let me tell you about Marian.
When I was in High School (over 20 years ago now….golly gee!!) our church had a program where one of the “older” ladies in the church would pick a teenage girl and they would pray for them. It was a “secret” type thing so you didn’t really find out who your lady was till much later, but I would receive cards from my “secret friend” and I always loved it. Better yet…..I was blessed with two ladies. Marian was one of those ladies. I never really knew her as well as I did Izzie, my other lady, but there was always something I loved about Marian. I married, moved over seas and life got busy. One furlough visit home, I reconnected with Marian at church and she invited me to attend their Tuesday Ladies bible study. I would share with the ladies about my missions experiences and they always faithfully prayed for me. After one study she asked if I would stay and visit a little longer and 3 hours later, long after our tea had gotten cold, she reminded me that she had been praying for me every day since High School. She said she never stopped and I was always on her list. I remember being so humbled.
Marian was a women who radiated with such joy. She lived a brave life and loved the Lord with her her whole heart! She was a polio survivor, so had lost some mobility, but I think her spunk kept her moving long after everyone thought she would. I never had the privilege of knowing her husband Don well, but she always talked about him. She loved her little companion JoJo who was her faithful dog. I was always amazed that she would send me these long newsie emails about what was going on in Altamont, the small town that I grew up in, and even weather updates! I loved those emails…..or “rambles” as she would call them. I knew it wasn’t easy for her to sit at her desk and type, but she was faithful and she did it. Marian quickly filled the “grandma” role in my life as she reminded me so so much of my own grandmother. I would tell her this and she would giggle and say, “Well I can’t bake like your grandma did, but I’ll take the title!”
No trip home was complete without a few visits with Marian. She always wanted to know every little detail of my life down to my kids, my husband, my life in Africa…..nothing was left out. When you asked Marian how she was she responded with the same answer, “I’m blessed, but let’s talk about YOU!” She loved all three of my children, but she was always especially fond of Piper. She told me, “That little girl is an old soul Sarah…..she’s so smart.” She was always quick to offer little rides on her hoveround and that’s how my kids remember Ms Marian……the lady with the scooter!
Our conversations always went from daily life to her love of the Lord and what the Lord was doing in our lives. Whenever I left Marian’s, I felt lighter and happier…..as if I was really sitting in the presence of someone special. My visit home last April I was told by the ladies that I should make sure I visited her as she was becoming more and more frail. She had moved from her home into the home of Gene and Vicki, who gracefully took care of her every need. Vicki set up a beautiful room for Marian and they tried to make her as comfortable as possible. When I went to visit, I think I prepared myself to see a very frail lady laying in a bed, but when I saw Marian (who was frail and laying in a bed!) I saw she had that same sparkle in her eye and that same sweet smile spread across her face. Even in bed, she glowed. (And just as my Grandma Wurl did, she had her hair nice and done and lipstick on her lips! Such classy women!) We chatted awhile just like always. When I went to hug her goodbye she said, “Well Sarah, this might be our last hug this side of heaven….I love you and I am proud of you.” Of course I said, “No way…..I’ll see you again!”, but I think in my heart I knew Marian was right.
This early morning, my phone dinged with a message from a friend Judy, who was also very close to Marian. She sent me this beautiful picture of Marian, taken just a few days ago. When I saw it, I cried. Because this, THIS is how I will always remember Marian, beautiful and that fabulous smile that showed the love of Jesus in all she encountered. I know this picture will be a blessing to so many who like me, didn’t get to say goodbye. Almost like if Marian herself could have said, “Hello Sarah….I’m going HOME now!”
I treasure my moments with Marian and the love, prayers, and support she gave me. She continued to build on a foundation laid in my heart by so many. I wasn’t her “family”, but she treated me as though I was her own granddaughter and I sure felt like I was! I know there was a glorious homecoming when she walked complete and whole into heavens gates. In fact I remember one day she laughed, “Well in heaven I get that heavenly body right!” Oh how I will miss my conversations and those long emails from her talking about the farm fields, the weather, and the latest town news. Most of all though, I will miss her prayers for me and my family. I know I have yet another guardian angel looking down on me and cheering me on in my own race.
Marian (like many other wise women I know) is one aspire to be like and leaving a legacy and example of a true women of God. No doubt she’s dancing in that heavenly body and her sparkly crown of life placed right on her head! I’ll miss you sweet Marian!
*Photo Credit to Judy Burrow….thanks Judy!!!*