Heather has been one of the greatest joys of my life. When I was young I learned from her the care that the Lord has for the weak. As other children mocked her for her weakness, I was taught to defend her and to consider her life valuable because of the God who made her. I learned that the God of the universe had woven her together in my mother’s womb, and he did so with 47 chromosomes, instead of 46.
As I grew I learned from Heather what it meant to have a sweet and quiet spirit. I have never met anyone that can “weep with those who weep” like Heather. When something sad were happening, she would probably be crying with you even before you started crying. I can remember years of her crying for my Grandpa after he died. I have never met someone so kind and forgiving and sweet.
In high school I learned boldness from Heather. We took a missions trip to Jamaica and Heather was out there street witnessing right along side us. I can remember one man that I was purposely avoiding. He was at least 6’7” and dressed like a Rastafarian. At some point I looked over and saw this enormous Jamaican bending down and listening as my five-foot-nothing sister read him The Four Spiritual Laws. I remember talking to her later and realizing that she did not have a clue why I would have avoided talking to the man.
In recent years, I learned childlike faith from Heather. Studying in school and reading on my own I have learned many apologetic strategies to defend the faith. And yet, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). In talking to Heather, she believed in Jesus like she believed in the air. Of course you believe in Jesus, even if you cannot see him! My mom told me that not long before she died Heather and my parents were studying about Heaven. At some point they began to discuss the resurrection and my mom asked if she knew what that meant. She responded “No,” so my mom told her she would be getting a new body, a perfect body. And she said “No scar?” (referring to the foot long scar in her chest from her multiple heart surgeries). Mom said, “That’s right! A new body with no scar and no pace maker and no pain!” And she believed it! And she was excited! So these days, when I read that passage in Matthew 18, I think “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like Heather, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Throughout the last 33 years (she would tell you that she is almost 34 if she was here) God has spared this beautiful girl’s life over and over again. Surgery after surgery, I have prayed with her and told her I loved her and reaffirmed the Gospel with her not knowing for sure if I would ever see her again. But she always made it, and we always thanked God.
But on August 9th she woke up at 3am vomiting. My other sister Melissa, with whom she was staying, called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital. There they did a CAT scan and found unexplained bleeding on the brain. She went into surgery soon after that and came out with no brain activity. Today life support was removed and somewhere in that whole process Heather left us all and went to be with the Lord.
Why? Why did God spare her life all these years and then take her in the middle of the night in Montana? Why did he do it when we were so unprepared? When I did not get to pray with her? And why did I not get to say goodbye and not get to be with her as she took her last breath? Was I even kind enough to her the last time I saw her? Did I tell her I loved her last time we talked?
These questions have been ringing in my head since I first heard that she was in the hospital. But something else has also been ringing in my head:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8
I am pretty confident that most of my questions will not have specific answers on this side of Heaven. But I do know the general answer, God did it because he is good and because he is the one who determines the day of our death. He was good to give me a sister from whom I can learn so much. And he is good to take her home now to eternal happiness. He is good because right now she is with Him and is not experiencing any pain. He is good in that one day He will give her a new body with no scar. Today I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good in the death of my sister. And I will thank him.
When we told our kids that Aunt Heather had died, they asked if we were sad. “Yes” we replied. Then they asked if Uncle Oleg was sad, then Grandma and Grandpa, then Aunt Melissa, then Uncle Jonny and we said “Yes, we are all very sad.” After that they asked “Is Aunt Heather sad?” “Oh no,” we replied, “Aunt Heather has never been happier.” How can we complain when our Lord has taken Heather out of doctor’s appointments, scars, medications and surgeries and given her rest? Our God is so good.
Be still my soul, when dearest friends depart.
And all is darkened in the veil of tears.
Then shalt thou better know his love his heart.
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still my soul, thy Jesus can repay.
From his own fullness all he takes away.