How deep is your love for your spouse? How far would you go to show them you love them? The Lord told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. I don’t think Jesus’ words refer only to physical death. There are many ways that we can lay down our lives for our loved ones. I would like to share with you the most beautiful example that I know.
A little over a year ago, Ken and I met a kind and gentle man named George on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Most of the travelers were there with their spouses, some with friends, a few with their daughters, but George was alone. At least, it seemed that way at first. But as we all got to know one another, we realized that George was never alone. In his pocket, next to his heart, he carried with him the photograph of his beloved, Josi. The trip to the Holy Land was one that they had wanted to make together, but while George joined us, Josie lay in a bed in the nursing home, where she had been for most of her fifties, suffering from early onset dementia. When we all renewed our wedding vows at Cana, George stood, holding his photo of Josi, and renewed his vows with us, as faithfully committed as ever to his bride.
Unfortunately, Josi’s story is not unique, but George’s is. In today’s world, George would be seen as having every right to abandon Josie, to let others take care of her, to begin dating once she supposedly forgot who he was, even to find a “kind” doctor to help Josi “alleviate her suffering.” But even close to 10 years after Josie begin to fail, George refused to turn his back on her. He could be found every night, sitting by her side, holding her hand, brushing her hair, reading to her, and praying with her. Everything George did, every plan he made, was done with Josie in mind. She was always first in his life no matter where she was, or what she was or was not able to do, say, or feel. George knew, without a doubt, that Josi heard him, listened to him, and responded to with with the squeeze of her hand or a look in her eyes.
This past weekend, the Gospel reading was the story of the death and raising of Lazarus. Our priest pointed out to us that Jesus never once used the word “death” when referring to his friend. He said that Lazarus was merely asleep and called him to awaken. Father told us that we should take Jesus’ words to heart. When we go to sleep, we enter another realm of consciousness and awake refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated, ready to live life to its fullest. Thus is the same for death. We fall asleep only to awaken to a new life, renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated to live in the fulness of life with Christ.
How fitting that this was the Gospel that was read around the world on the last day that Josi spent on earth. For years, she slept, being renewed and refreshed, being prepared to live out eternity with the Lord. She was a gift to the world, a witness to the will of God rather than the will of society. George’s love for Josi, poured out in all that he did, and his faith and trust in the Lord, sends a powerful message to all those who know him. George never lost faith that Josi knew him, was aware of his presence, and knew how much he loves her. And he never lost faith that God was with him every step of the way, no matter how hard, no matter how desperate. George knew from the beginning that the road ahead would be hard, that there would be heartbreaking moments that he could never foresee, that many days would be dark and rough. But he held Josi’s hand and walked her journey with her, always seeing the light and glory at the end, always trusting that his love for her, and God’s love for them both, would never fail.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
Ken and I have become very close to George over the past year, and by extension, to Josi. We have visited with George in New York many times, and he has come to our home to share family celebrations with us. Our girls have fallen in love with George and consider him as much a family member as all of their blood relatives. He has brought much joy to our family, but more than that, he has brought hope. He allowed us to share in his love for Josi as well as his unwavering faith. He taught us all so much about love, acceptance, trust, and faith. May you all have a George in your life, and may you all experience an unfailing love like the love between George and Josi.
What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Agony of the College Search.
Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing: Eight Things Whole-hearted, Creative Women do Differently by blogger, Emily Freeman, How Women Use Body Language To Beat The Double-Bind Paradox by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. (Leadership and Management), The Simple Reason Why Goodreads Is So Valuable to Amazon by Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic).
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.