Saturday, December 31, 2011

On Loan

Originally posted on August 12, 2011:

Today would have been my sister Ellen's 55th BD. We lost her last month after a long and courageous struggle with cancer. I think about her every day and it still seems unreal that she's gone. We weren't always close, but the last year of her life we did connect in a deeper way and talked about how we regretted the many years when we didn't see much of each other. It's not as though we had a disagreement or misunderstanding of any kind;  it's just that I only make it home once a year and there isn't much time to spend together.  Two weeks go by quickly and Ellen worked long hours at her job. She and her husband Don were raising three of their grandkids and between work and the kids, she didn't have time for much else. Regretfully, we would go for long periods of time without calling each other. A year ago May when Ellen was in the hospital having radiation treatments, we had some of our first "real" conversations in years. Something good came out of this terrible illness; Ellen and I were truly sisters again and we vowed to keep in touch from then on. We did and even towards the end of her life, she would tell me how much she loved me and how much she appreciated my prayers.

After her death and on the evening of her viewing, my sister Jackie came to me with a small box and told me it was a gift from Ellen. She had asked Jackie to give it to me after she was gone. I opened the box and found a beautiful bracelet with garnet colored stones. Jackie said it was one of Ellen's favorite bracelets; she had chosen it herself and wanted me to have it. Jackie remembered the day when ElIen selected it from her jewelry box. I couldn't contain my tears as I looked at this special gift. All I could think about was that as she was dying, she was thinking about me and what she could give me as a special rememberance of her. What an incredible gift! It touched me very deeply but even looking at the bracelet was so painful in light of her just having died, I couldn't put it on until this past Sunday when I wore it to church. I showed it to a few friends and told them the story of how Ellen had wanted me to have something of hers. They were touched and inspired by the story.

A couple of days after Ellen's funeral, my mom, sisters and I were talking and Mom said how good the Lord was to let us have Ellen for 54 years. I had never thought of it in that way, in terms of the number of years that were granted to Ellen and to our family, but Mom was right. When Ellen and her twin sister, Teresa were born they were several weeks premature. Teresa lived only a few hours after birth and Ellen almost lost her fight for life, too. She was so tiny that my dad nicknamed her "Shoebox" (she was almost small enough to fit in one) and to the best of my memory, the name stuck through her grade school years. It is an incredibly beaurtiful way to look at Ellen's life ~ she was "on loan" and how thankful we are to have had her for those 54 years.

Ellen, you've earned your crown of life.*  Rest in the loving arms of Jesus and I'll see you again.  I love you.

*Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12