As our church community prepared for a Celebration of Life last week for a dear friend, sister in Christ, mother, mother-in-law and Nana, I couldn’t help but remember the many conversations and meals that we shared together as a family. Elise was always there with a kind, listening ear, an open door and a table full of food. She also regularly added spice to the conversation. She was unapologetically outspoken, strong-minded, independent and never hesitated to make her opinions known. She fiercely loved her Savior, her family and friends, and others with whom she came into contact.
She also experienced the beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation with those she loved through Christ’s love for her.
While in the hospital, Elise and her daughter asked me to read two of my blog posts. I’ve never posted the first, but the second was “An Afternoon Visit (Grieve With Hope).” As I reflect on it now, it was a Spirit-led moment that helped us to start to understand what was happening. As I read it then, my eyes welled up and my voice broke with the gravity of her situation. I had to stop reading at one point, and I apologized for getting emotional.
Elise gently took my hand, looked me directly in the eye, and said, “Alison, please listen carefully to me in this. Never apologize for your emotions; they are yours and they are valid.” I think my mumbled response was that emotions often required an apology. But Elise was a licensed social worker and quite skilled at reading people (sigh). She knew I was afraid of displaying too much emotion, and that I was holding back. While I was there that day trying to bring comfort and encouragement to her, she was the one who brought them to me.
It seems to me that we often hesitate with others who we are in relationship with after those emotional breaks-a burst of anger or tears, a cold shoulder, a slammed door, or silent shame after a wrong done. We don’t love these more difficult responses in ourselves any more than we do in others. We question whether anyone could love us through them. But God did; He does, and He always will. And sometimes He uses those heart “breaks” to bring about growth in us or in others, very much like a seed that breaks in order for the new seedling to sprout.
Let’s widen the lens a bit: Jesus himself explains the great love He has for us in John 12:24: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” He later commanded His disciples to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). One of His disciples, Peter, was so deeply convicted of this by the Holy Spirit that in his later years, he writes: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We are far from perfect, and we live in a broken world. But Christ suffered in His body and the seed was broken to bring about God’s plan for reconciliation and restoration; His love brings hope and healing to those who put their faith in Him.
Elise understood these truths, and she responded. She greatly loved and placed her hope in her Savior. And He brought her the ultimate healing.
While we mourn individually and in community right now, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will one day be reunited, and we look forward to that day. Until then, we will all deeply miss her.
Photo credit: weerapatkiatdumrong