(Saying good-bye to a loved one is letting go of a piece of yourself. On the Tuesday before Christmas, I went to the hospital to say good-bye to a friend who would be taken off life support later that day, and eventually passed away that evening.)
My friendship with Sandy started several years ago, when I started visiting her every Wednesday at her home. Sandy was a 70+ year old, homebound, Italian woman who was married to an Irish man – my Christian friend Ernie. I started visiting Sandy because Ernie told me repeatedly of how depressed she was. I think my first couple month’s visits consisted almost entirely of listening. I learned about her life with Ernie, their 2 adopted daughters, and then the adoption of their 2 grandsons born to their oldest daughter. Her heart lamented the break in relationship with her own family, a brother and sister and their children – no family gatherings nor exchange of words for decades now. She harbored a lot of anger for certain individuals and those stories were repeated often. Sandy was always honest and forthright, telling you whatever she thought. Although my prayer was to help Sandy find peace and joy in the Lord, the Lord used those visits to teach me many lessons too. I share these with you as a testimony of how God providentially and economically molded us both. The two lessons most dear to my heart are lessons of love and faith.
Seemingly, Sandy and I are very different women, of different life experience, personality, culture, generation. I honestly didn’t know whether she would accept me into her life. Maybe she would think that I was too young? Maybe looking at my Asian features would be too foreign to her? But God took my willingness to go and He opened her heart to accept me as a friend. There were no heartaches, worries or joy that Sandy would not share with me. And He graciously allowed me to share the gospel with her, many times, in varied ways. God allowed us to share life as we prayed and read the Bible together. We also read through several Christian biographies and saw how God brought these individuals to know Him and to see their lives transformed by Jesus.
But in this relationship with Sandy, I was called to persevere in love, as Sandy stubbornly held on to anger toward certain individuals, as she spoke with a loud voice, often curt and demanding, as she continually was unable (or unwilling) to read the Bible on her own. Love led me back, week after week, often times spending the first hour listening to complaints of physical pain, financial hardship, anger, and heartache. But that same love cultivated in me compassion and sympathy. That love gave me patience. And that love led me to cleave to the only One who could help Sandy; it developed in me a greater faith and reliance upon my God in prayer. I prayed asking how to minister to Sandy. I prayed for wisdom beyond my years. I prayed for comfort from pain and healing upon her body. I prayed for His Spirit to replace the hardness of her heart with humility, to say “Yes” to His leading. And most of all I prayed for salvation because although she professed to be “born again”, the fruit of that salvation was very hard to see. It was only just a few months ago, that Sandy finally forgave some of those people who had hurt her. About that same time, Sandy was also hospitalized, and she really had peace as she trusted God with the timing and process of her getting better and being able to return home. Although she tasted the peace of God, she wrestled with Him during this last hospitalization and rehab and was filled with anxiety and unrest until she had to be sedated and put on the ventilator.
Her husband Ernie told me that a pastor visited Sandy on that last day of her life and when he prayed with her about salvation, she nodded her head to accept Jesus; God’s grace evident in giving her lucidity during his visit. I do miss my friend, her spunk and forthrightness. Once again, I need to trust God in His mercy because ultimately, it is His mercy and love that saves each one of us. So, I hope that I will see Sandy again, and my prayer is that with awe and worship, she will testify for eternity of the love of her Savior who never gave up on her.
Gloria Huang has been a member of GRC since 2013. She is a deaconess and is part of the Women’s Ministry leadership team.