Saturday, September 01, 2007

What Do We Leave Behind That Matters?

I attended the memorial service for the mother of a former student today.

They moved to Colorado and enrolled at our school the week she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. They lived in a small town in Wyoming, but decided to come here for treatment. Her mother left her home and job as well to take care of her and her son. Her husband and older son had to stay in Wyoming so that he could keep his job and medical insurance for her.

We didn't know all of this right away, we just knew we suddenly had a new student and that something odd was going on. One afternoon, the grandmother struck up a conversation with another student's mother and told her all that was happening. That lovely mother of three and her husband, who had just recently become a Christian, decided that they should open their home to this family. They had a complete, but completely unfinished, basement that was being used for storage.

To make a long, and challenging story short, this family turned their lives and home completely upside down for another family of strangers in need. From start to finish, with the help of almost all volunteers mostly from the school, the basement was finished in about two and a half weeks. From a concrete foundation with no walls, to a completely furnished apartment with carpet, tile, effiency kitchen, two bedrooms and a living room in mere days. So many people said it couldn't be done, but luckily they weren't the ones doing the work.

The outpouring of help in so many ways was overwhelming. This was just a public school helping a new family. Everyone did what they could whether as a professional electrician, or just volunteer painters.

They lived there for eight months as she received treatments. Then a remission occured and they were able to move back to their home in Wyoming. Sadly, within a year, the cancer was back. At that point the entire family moved into their own place here in Denver. In that time period as well, her husband began facing his own battle with cancer in his back.

In mid-August Christy passed from here to heaven.

Today's service was hard, in that it's so hard to see a husband lose his wife and children their mother. The pictures, stories and songs were a neat tribute to a wonderful woman who had fought hard against the cancer. She lost the battle with the disease, but never lost her joy or her sense of humor.

She leaves behind a rich legacy. It's not a legacy of money or riches, but a legacy of love. You see, she had also been a foster parent for many years opening her home to over a dozen children, one of whom she adopted. He had been so severely abused in his life, but she gave him a home of love and safety. Even after she was married, her home continued to be opened to kids in need. She and her husband even had one son together, the boy who was my student.

I'm not sure what they will do now. I spent the morning with the family who was enjoying their time together. Though the circumstance that brought them together from across the continent was hard, it was still a day focused on love. Family members have been reconciling through this time and estrangements healed.

There was even a new friend added to the mix whose father passed away at the same hospice she was in the day after she died. The hospice was in Florida where members of both families lived, even though parts of both families are here in Denver. It was so neat to see a family reaching out past its own loss to draw in another hurting family.

It's so easy isn't it, when things are tough, to simply withdraw and just gather around those you know and love? Molly, the mother and grandmother, did not do this. Though she was losing her only daughter, she has drawn in this new person suffering the loss of her father.

Molly's faith, strength and love has been amazing through all of this. I am hoping after the baby comes to be able to see her and spend time with her as well as her grandson. It's so good to know that whatever happens next, they won't be alone. There are so many people out there reaching out to one another, in His name, and loving one another.

And really, this is all we have to leave behind, isn't it? It's not our wealth that will really matter, but our love. Christy leaves behind those she's loves and that love her. But we know, they will all be reunited together with Him one day. She is not here, but she lives on with her Savior. We continue to pray for those that she has left behind. It will be a hard time for a long time.


ukrainiac said...

What a great testimony to God's grace. Your school's families are to be applauded -- I get goosebumps when I hear about people GIVING (especially TIME) to others to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Such hope for the rest of us with BIG tasks ahead!

Prayers for you AND these families. It is never easy to lose a parent (or a child, though I have been blessed to not have to experience this) no matter how expected it is.

Mimi said...

You and your school did such a wonderful thing for this family..
God used you to bless them just as he used them to bless others..
it is the circle of Love ! and it will go on giving.. through the grandmother and the husband and the child... as well as you as you continue to try to be involved in their lives


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