It was 1984. I was heading down to Iowa for a family get together and feeling a bit anxious. One of my grandmother's sisters had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a few years earlier. I'd heard that her condition was deteriorating rapidly. She had always been so active and involved in life.
My Aunt Amy was the stereotypical Iowa farm wife. She looked the part and acted the part as well. She was also very active in her church teaching Sunday School, playing the piano, cooking dinners, baking items to sell, etc. Whenever something needed to be done, Aunt Amy had capable and willing hands to offer as well as a willing heart. Now those hands were stilled. What was I going to see.
Sunday morning dawned bright. My husband and I headed off to church with the rest of the family. I was surprised and delighted that Aunt Amy was going to be teaching the adult Sunday School class at the little church she attended. In the summers I would go to a youth camp in Iowa with my cousins. Aunt Amy would be up with the rest of the cooks at the crack of dawn. She would work relentlessly all day and finish up just in time to get ready to go to the evening services. She would play the piano during the altar service if things went long and someone needed a bit of a break. She would pray with teenagers, encourage them, sing with them and rejoice with them well into the night. Then she would begin all over again at 4:30 a.m.
She was wheeled up to the front of the room, her big Bible was placed in her lap. She looked over at my husband and smiled. "My hands just won't behave themselves anymore so do you think you could hold my Bible for me?" He was happy to assist her.
With a beaming smile, she began to teach. The lesson was about the joy of the Lord. I want you to get a good picture of what I saw. A small woman was sitting in front of me in a wheelchair. Her legs and hands which had labored for the Lord had been rendered useless. Her long beautiful hair had been cut as she could no longer care for it. Breathing itself was becoming more and more difficult. She had served God faithfully for many years and yet here she was suffering from a terminal disease for which there is no cure.
It would have been very easy for her to have shaken her fist at God and said "Why me? You let me down, God! This isn't a part of the plan!" It would have been so easy to have been overcome by despair. It would have been so easy to have allowed things like fear, bitterness and self-pity to take over. Instead, she allowed joy to take over and as a result although her body was weak, she was standing tall and strong.
She told a story that day of feeling a bit sad because she couldn't plant her flowers this year. She found herself complaining. Imagine that! She decided she really had nothing to complain about as God had been so very good to her. Yes, that's what she said. How many of us would say that if we found ourselves in a similar situation?
She spoke of thanking God for everything he'd done for her and the things he'd helped her through. She began to praise God and tell him how much she loved him. When she finished, she managed to painfully push her way to the window just to enjoy the spring day. As she peeked out the window, she saw colorful spring flowers waving in the breeze. Her husband had just finished planting them for her. What a beautiful gift of love!
That was the last time I saw her. That fall, she stepped out of her sick and broken body and into the joyous presence of the Lord. During some of my deepest moments of despair I've thought about her and remembered that my joy is not dependent on my circumstances. It is dependent upon my relationship with God!
But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. Psalms 5:11 (NLT)
What a wonderful story! I don't know how many people really understand how people like your Aunt Amy were much more prevalent back "in the day" than they are now. Life is so much more complicated now and there is no time to be a simple person who loved God with all their heart and accepted what God gave them in this life. Now everyone is too busy telling God what to do and what to give them.
I can think of no one in my life who would have graciously accepted their lot in life as you Aunt the day she taught without complaining. As you say, most people today would either be mad at God or so swallowed up by self pity they would never be able to help anyone else.
I guess it all comes down to one's view of this life. If this life is all there is, then sickness and death are the great enemies and when they come prematurely, there is great weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, if this life is but a stepping stone into the presence of the Lord; then sickness and death just mean that glorious day is a little closer.
Well, dear K,
Now we all see who modeled your inspiring outlook on life that you have shared with us!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, one that leaves me humble and a bit ashamed of myself.Gracie