I’m so sorry to all of you who may have stopped by to check on me and wondered if I fell off the face of the earth. Basically, the answer is, “Yes.” I have written the blog post about all of it 100 times in my head and still can’t find a way to write it on the page. I’m still limited in my sitting – in hard chairs and the chair at THIS desk. I have a laptop that is ancient but will allow me to sit sideways on the couch. However, it doesn’t even have Word on it. And I lose a portion of my day each day to recovery and pain management so what’s left over is taken up with schooling my son and feeding people around here, and occasionally hosing out the house.
But today, I MUST MUST MUST write this particular blog. It has been on my mind to do for far longer than my current issues even existed, and there’s no more time to waste. I’m sure you know what I mean (for those of you who blog). Have you thought of things you wanted to share and one little thing or another got in the way and you just put it off? That is this post.
I have a beautiful blogging friend, Sara, who goes by “Gitz” at Gitzen Girl Blog and she has been a source of amazing inspiration, laughs, and get-er-done practicality. She was diagnosed years ago with a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, a severe type of arthritis. She has been majorly affected, including her lungs, and has been unable to even venture outside for the last few years. Only in her 30’s, she has lived a house-bound life with her precious little dog, Riley – her near and dear constant companion. Family and friends come to her, even blogging friends have made the trek to see her in Iowa. I always wished I could have met her in person. She inspires greatly and I think it would have been awesome to share person-to-person.
She is a gifted artist. Even though she has been greatly affected, occasionally her body would let her paint and she would make these beautiful paintings with sayings on them. I won one during a contest she had and then I bought one. They hang to my left at this desk. I see them each time I pass by or sit here and I think of her. I have wanted to share them with you for a long time because they are so meaningful to me. The first, this one….
…..I bought because I WANT to be that person. You KNOW I love to laugh and make others laugh. It brings me enormous joy. The reality is, I probably worry about my own happiness more than I do others. Do I really spend each day trying to bring happiness or do my own wants and desires loom larger? Do I “me first!” or “you first?” I can tell you Sara’s all about “you first.” She looks for ways to enrich everyone who crosses her path. Even when she doesn’t have it in her she finds something encouraging to say. Her motto is “Choose Joy!” Pretty hard when your body is wracked with pain, you can only gaze at the world through glass, and there’s no hope of rejoining the world most of us take for granted every day. She definitely CREATES joy. I also loved this canvas for the colors. All of them right up my alley. And color helps me feel happy. My personal motto is: “Life is too short for beige.”
This canvas I won in her contest and I’ve pondered its meaning dozens of times when I’ve looked at it. It can mean so many different things depending on what I’ve been going through and where I am in my life. Right now, when I think of her, it’s especially poignant. I’m not sure Sara has ever met a stumbling block and every stone in her path she has decided to use as a stepping stone. And she always encouraged us to do the same. Right now, she’s one stepping stone away from the arms of Christ.
You see, Sara is losing her battle with AS. It happened pretty suddenly (my sweet friend Vicky, with her own serious battle – see my last post - sent me a note) and, last week, her body said “No more.” She is young, in her late 30’s, but the body can only withstand so much and hers has been through a war. However, her spirit is healthy and strong and soaring, even as she is confined to her bed, attended by loving family, saying her last goodbyes. She is traveling the path we will all travel at some point and the family says she is resting easy….something she’s been unable to do. She was put on hospice last week and we are helping to pray her through, and to pray her home, on her journey. Barring a complete miracle, we will not have our dear, dear Sara anymore on this earth. I’m crying now just writing that sentence. But Sara will be more alive than ever. Soon she will run outdoors in the most beautiful place in all creation. She will breathe deeply. She will be reunited with her father who she lost suddenly, and very unexpectedly, last year. She will see Jesus. She is breaths away from total joy and freedom.
Sara, I now have to say this to you. I don’t know if you’ll ever hear these words but I’ll say them anyway and tell you how sorry I am I didn’t say them sooner. Do you realize how many lives you’ve touched? How many lives you will continue to affect through your exquisite writing? Pain is often a lonely path. Even those closest to us cannot share it. Many have no one – no one – to understand, to validate, to encourage, to pray for them, to offer hope, to even once make them laugh and feel seen. You did all that. You led by example but even more, you let each one travel their own path, in their own way. And you were there for them. Anyone struggling with the loneliness and isolation of debilitating pain and/or disease could travel to your blog and find a sister-of-the-heart in you. Do you realize you were all some people had? You may have made the difference between life and death for some who were desperate and thought no one understood. You did understand and you pointed them to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. You encouraged them to “choose joy” and to look for anything, even the smallest of things, to be thankful for, while at the same time comprehending the abject battle fatigue that is chronic pain. Through three years of knowing you I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of comments from those so deeply moved by your words. I’ve been among them. You privately emailed how many? Thousands and thousands, I have no doubt. What an immense work you did in this blogging world. What an incomprehensible difference you made.
Go on to your great reward, sweet girl. It’s all waiting for you; joy we can only imagine here on earth. We will feel your loss deeply and profoundly but you deserve all that is yours through Christ. I look forward to seeing you there one day where all the former tears and pain will be wiped away. Dance, sing with your oh-so-lovely voice, and be happy. You chose joy here on this earth, Sara. Now, it’s choosing you. I love you.