A year ago today, this earth lost a beautiful woman who went to be with The Lord. A month previously, my friends Sara and Chris had been hit head on by a drunk driver while driving to a celebratory dinner to celebrate Sara’s recent promotion at work. She spent a month in a coma before breathing her last. I remember that month like it was yesterday.
10 days before I got the phone call about their accident, I watched a young woman whom I’d mentored for years experience the onset of bipolar disease with an extreme manic episode. A few days later, I got a call from a close friend that her daughter had overdosed and was in a coma in the ICU. And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, I got the call about Chris and Sara’s accident.
Having been an intern as a chaplain one summer, I’d spent my fair share of time in the hospital with patients, and especially ICU. But when I visited Sara for the first time, I was thankful I had already been warned about all the machines surrounding her, the tubes sticking out of her and how badly she’d been injured. Honestly, I don’t know that I would’ve recognized her had it not been for her family in the room. She truly was unrecognizable at first glance. I had never seen someone so badly injured in my life. And here it was a dear friend of mine.
Time spent in the hospital those weeks by family and friends were filled with updating Sara on what was happening in life, prayers and books read aloud. Time spent outside the hospital was filled with tears, prayers and lots of questions, at least by me.
Those 3 incidents back-to-back left me reeling, angry, hurt and so afraid I’d lose a good friend who was just 33 and too young to die–who had her whole life ahead of her. I remember one Sunday being in church and standing while we were singing. But I wasn’t singing. I was having it out with God. ‘Why God? Why is there so much suffering and pain in this world? Why can’t You just end it all? Take us all home now! I’m so sick of this world and all the pain, heartache, suffering and loss.’ I was furious and thankful the people around me were singing so no one noticed how angry I happened to be. In that moment, in God’s gentle way, He reminded me that that’s precisely why Jesus came and lived and died and rose again. Because this world is broken and a far cry from heaven. And what Jesus did was begin to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, to make all wrongs right. And that’s why we are still here: to continue that work. We all know things aren’t as they should be because we were clearly created for something better, like heaven, where there is no sickness, death, disease, injustice, nor even tears.
The thing is, true love requires the ability to choose to love, otherwise it would be a forced love, which isn’t love at all. We all get to have the freedom to make our own choices in life, which makes loving God, each other and ourselves even possible. And this ability to choose also means we get to make choices that aren’t life giving to us, nor to the people around us. Sara chose life and lived it to the fullest wherever she went. One day, a young woman didn’t make a life-giving choice for herself, and she ended both her own and Sara’s lives.
A year ago, Sara joined the cloud of witnesses in heaven. A year later, I’m just as reminded that things are not as they should be, and that our purpose hasn’t changed either: to make earth like heaven. Here’s to a woman who did that wherever she went. Remembering you, Sara.