My deepest fear is that my relationship with God is a fair weather friendship. I suspect that I love God mainly because He’s taken it pretty easy on me. I wonder sometimes if my prayers and rituals and devotion are really a frantic dance to keep Him placated and distracted enough to leave my family well enough alone. Because I suspect that if He took one of my children, I’d turn on Him, fast and furious. And so my faith has always been tenuous and conditional. But when Sunny, a long lost high school friend and the single mother of five, read my blog and sent me the story of her stepdaughter, Shayla… I began to wonder. The following essay is a gift Sunny offered me, and I asked her to offer it to you as Momastery’s first “Me Too” post.
Shayla is my ex husband’s oldest daughter. She came into my life when she was seven years old. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While undergoing her first intense chemotherapy treatment, doctors discovered a very serious heart condition called long qt syndrome. This would require her to have a pacemaker. Because of a series of complications and infections she endured several heart surgeries. After going through torturous rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, at the tender age of eighteen, she lost her battle to cancer on January 28, 2009. Shayla was such an incredible child and young woman.
Despite her circumstances she always remained brave and had a tremendous concern for those around her. She displayed love unlike any other person I know. While she did not have any religious influence during her short life, there is no doubt in my mind that she has gone home to the Lord and I can’t wait for the day I get to be with her again. While she readily admitted that having cancer sucked, she never wallowed in self pity. She expressed to me on more than one occasion that she was concerned about the affect her illness was having on her friends. It was painful for her to see the look of confusion in her friends’ faces. Even when they had seemingly deserted her when she needed them most, she never harbored resentment toward them. On the complete opposite end, she wished THEY didn’t have to face the reality of having a friend that was terminally ill. Her heart, while physically weak was so full of compassion and love. I will always aspire to be more like her. There were two things that she said she wanted me to know before she died, how grateful she was that I was such a “good mom” to her little sisters and brother and that she was sorry she wasn’t a better big sister.
The things I admired most about her were her determination despite the odds stacked against her and her unwillingness to give up. Doctors told her she would not be able to attend school after she was diagnosed, she attended school at Osbourn High School in Manassas for a short period of time and completed the rest of her senior year with a tutor at home and in the hospital. During the period in which she was healthy enough to attend school, she also returned to work at a daycare center. She loved children and cherished the time she spent as a caregiver to two and three year olds. Doctors told her she would not be able to attend the prom, she looked so beautiful in the pink dress her father picked out for her. Doctors told her she wouldn’t be strong enough to attend graduation, I’ll never forget the roaring applause in Nissan Pavilion as she walked across the stage and accepted her diploma. Doctors said she probably would not live long enough to receive her “make a wish”, she took her trip to Hawaii last November and swam with the dolphins just like she said she would. She was not supposed to live much past thanksgiving and she rang in the New Year with friends and family by her side.
I was with Shayla the night she died. It snowed that day and when I saw the snow begin to fall, all I could think was how Jesus washes our sins away, and makes us white as snow. I somehow knew it was time for Shayla to pass on. While I never would have “signed up” to experience something like that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have never been as close to God as I was that moment when I was hugging Shayla’s legs and whispering the Lord’s prayer as she took her last breath. It is a sad and tragic story of a life too short, but with a peace that surpasses all understanding, I am glad you asked me to share it with you. God uses all things to work together for His Glory, and He definitely used Shayla for His testimony of what true love really is.
According to Sunny, when the unimaginable happens, His grace increases unimaginably, and we are carried through. We are carried closer. If this is true…if His grace will always be sufficient…if there truly is nothing that can separate us from His love…then is it possible that we have nothing to fear? Nothing at all?
I have read that after losing a child, it is impossible for mothers to feel understood by anyone who hasn’t experienced the same pain. It is amazing to me that God planned for this. That when parents whose hearts have been shattered by the loss of a child cry out to Him, He can whisper, “Me Too.”
For more about Sunny’s faith and her remarkable family ….swing by