Saturday, August 6, 2011


The last post in a series begun with Gratitude.
A story of a lesson in compassion taught to my children and I by two unknowing teachers, two dear friends in opposite stages of life.  One nearing the end of life, battling lung cancer in her mid-eighties, the other pregnant with her fourth child.
Neither one knew the impact they had on us last summer....

Our friend Laila whom we much admired and enjoyed, a wise and perceptive older woman full of spunk,  was nearing the end of life having been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The boys and I had visited her often, though in hindsight not often enough.  We would enjoy picnics with her in her yard on summer afternoons, we would stop by now and then with treats and for short visits.  Dan would do the same often bringing coffee that they would enjoy together.
She was a joy to be with, always treating the children like little people, conversing with them as though they were bright and intelligent and capable of having an opinion of their own.  An approach most adults don't take with children.  She loved them and they her.  She had keen insight on goings on in the church.  She spoke kindly, yet with great honesty.

Our other dear friend Wendy was wanting to teach her own children to care for the elderly.  "How can I get to know her?" she would ask of Laila.  I told her, "just stop by with flowers - she loves them.  Let her know you are praying for her and care about her.  Be clear that you have no expectation of her, you just want to be her friend".  Before long, Laila was warming up to Wendy and her children.

Wendy was pregnant with her fourth child at the time.  Sick almost daily.  Homeschooling her three kids and packing for a big move to another state.  Regardless, Wendy found time to stop by numerous times each week to tend to Laila.  Each time she would bring something.  Things I had not thought to bring myself.  She understood what would be helpful to Laila.  She would bring a single serving of homemade soup,  other times she would bring a basket filled with a little of this and a little of that from the grocery store.
She would bring flowers...
She understood that the visits needn't be lengthy to be meaningful.

One morning, Wendy called.  "I just saw Laila and brought her lunch.  I told her you would be bringing her dessert tonight.  Make sure you go.  She's excited for her brownies and ice cream and there's not much time left".

We made brownies as we had planned.  After dinner, I brought my oldest son with me.  We brought her brownies and coffee - she said she had plenty of ice cream in her freezer.  We arrived and made ourselves at home, fixing her brownie with ice cream.

She sat in her favorite spot on the couch and we talked for the better part of an hour.  She, savoring her dessert, talked about life, about death, about Jesus.  Throughout the conversation she processed her way from denial to acceptance.  Always an independent gal, she wanted nothing less than for hospice to come care for her or the home she had always cared for herself in the 17 years or so since her husband passed.

The next day we left for a family vacation.  We returned and within a day or so of our return Laila had gone to be with Jesus.  The kind woman, a nurse, who had cared for Laila in the last months of her life told Isaiah that the last food she ate was the brownie he had brought her.  That last sad, but sweet conversation with Laila is one that neither Isaiah nor I will ever forget.

Had it not been for Wendy's call, we may have missed out on such an opportunity.  It would have been easy to have not gone over having been busy preparing for vacation.  How much we learned by watching one friend accept that the end of life was nearing, and by watching the compassion of another friend.  The compassion of a friend who befriended a dying woman, simply to show her love, concern and care at a time when it was needed... and to be an example to us of what it means to put aside our own discomfort and agenda to care for another in need.

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