Five years ago, the Lord took my sister, Marsha, home to heaven a few months after she retired from a full-time nursing career of over four decades. She led me to Christ when I was in high school (See Life Changing Letter) and became my first Bible teacher.
Since our birthdays were one day apart, we always celebrated together as we grew up. When we were young, Mom often dressed us in matching outfits, so I thought that made us twins. When I rolled Marsha in the wheelchair up to the hospital registration window for what was to be her final chest x-ray, the clerk asked, “Are you twins?” We answered in unison, “No, we’re sisters!” and then chuckled.
We also had identical voices. When we were small and talking in the back seat of the car, our parents couldn’t tell who was speaking. Our first pastor sometimes confused us and called me Marsha and her Pam. I was three years younger and often had the same teachers in school who always said on the first day, “Oh, you must be Marsha’s sister.” She was a wonderful example for me and I decided to become a nurse just like her.
Marsha was promoted to glory after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. I thank God that I could be with her in the hospice unit during the last few days of her life here on earth. She not only taught me how to live in Christ, but how to die in Christ. Her life verse was “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
She left a rich legacy of numerous spiritual children from her 25 years as a Bible Club teacher, 30 years as a public health nurse, and the last ten years of her career teaching public health nursing at two different universities. Early in her career, she was a missionary nurse in the jungles of Suriname, South America. As a college nursing professor, she led student nurses on short-term mission trips to New York City, Swaziland, and the Dominican Republic.
She had us sing the beautiful hymn “Face to Face” at her memorial service.
What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain,
When the crooked ways are straightened and the dark things shall be plain.
Face to face- O blissful moment! Face to face to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so.
-by Carrie E. Breck
I remember asking the Lord during that painful first year of grief if He would ever heal my broken heart? God encouraged me when I read the following thoughts on sorrow from a devotional book by Miles J. Stanford called None But the Hungry Heart.
“Nevertheless, God, that comforts those that are cast down, comforted us” (2 Corinthians 7:6).
All of us are going to have sorrow, and none of us should miss its spiritual benefits. God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus. God had one Son, without sin, but not without sorrow. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one. It takes sorrow to widen the soul. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper must first be a sufferer. We cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which our Lord Jesus drank. The school of suffering graduates rare scholars. It is but a little while and He will appear to answer all inquiries and to wipe away all tears. I would not wish, then, to be of those who had none to wipe away, would you?
Marsha loved these verses.
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4 KJV).
Five years later, God has healed my broken heart. I will always miss her until I see her in heaven again, but He has given me happiness in knowing she is worshiping and serving the Lord in ways I can’t even imagine. The best is yet to come for all who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. How I praise Him for saving my soul and telling me to keep looking unto Him. Truly, He is the God of all comfort. If you are sorrowing today, I pray God will heal your broken heart in His timing and His way.