By JANIE MALONEY
Learning from my sister’s death
It’s not supposed to be this way. She was going to be my roommate in the nursing home. I always figured we’d outlive our husbands and have each other to cling to, like in our childhood. My plans were shattered. Just months after we’d celebrated her 50th birthday, my healthy, encouraging, godly sister Sandy — always mistaken as my twin — went to sleep with her devotional in hand and woke to the face of Christ.
Our whole family was in shock. A husband and three children were left behind. Sandy was my “leader” — my decision-maker. We talked multiple times a day. My son had tagged her phone number as a “frequent caller.”
I felt I would not be able to go on without her.
A few weeks after my sister went to heaven, I was driving into the cemetery when all of a sudden a preacher was talking on the radio about losing a loved one. He said, “It may be your time to step out of the shadow and no longer follow, but lead.” For about five minutes, I felt that God was speaking directly to me. Later, as I pulled out of the cemetery, the radio was back on my usual “‘80s on 8” station. It was as if the preacher had just come on to tell me what I needed to hear.
When I think back, I remember how very much I ached to feel God’s presence after the shocking news of my sister’s death. I listened to Christian music 24/7, which really comforted me. When I was in college and going through hard times, I would play either Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith for encouragement. Today we are so fortunate to have Christian music stations available that remind us that we are children of Christ and loved more than we can imagine. God will speak to us in so many different ways if we will just tune into Him.
Grief is like a hunk of your heart getting scraped out. It takes time to heal — and it will never be back to the way it once was, at least not in this life. I like the comparison of the ocean: Grief will sometimes be a calm sea, and then out of nowhere a tidal wave can come crashing in. When I first lost Sandy, my mindset was, “I’m so heartbroken for all of us.” Little by little, I have changed my daily thoughts to, “I am so happy for Sandy because she gets to be with You, Lord.”
2 Corinthians 1:5-7 tells us God bears fruit in the midst of affliction. When we are broken, we search for God more than ever. We see and hear so much that we’re not aware of when our life is on autopilot. I’ve learned that when we are “broken,” we have more of ourselves to give others. When we are vulnerable and exposed, others are able to offer love and encouragement — and we all realize that the most important truth on this earth, besides our personal relationship with Christ, is to love one another.
Shortly before she passed away, my sister had recommended a Bible study to me that she’d recently completed. After her death, I came across her study guide and found her pen still inserted in it. The last two pages were blank except for the answer to one question. Her last three words were, “Love one another.”
I have had a couple of dreams of my sister. They have given me a feeling that she is still and always will be with me. I have also seen how God is communicating to me through dreams when I listen. Putting a pen and pad beside my bed and jotting down key parts of the dream can show me my weaknesses and where I need to work on myself to be the woman God wants me to be. I encourage you to open your heart and mind and try this for yourself.
“Whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared to the magnificent future God has planned for us.” — Romans 8:18
It’s not supposed to be this way — but until I reside in my eternal home, I will make it a point to live by my sister’s last words written in her Bible study: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.