May I share a story with you?

You know when I get emotional I have to write... and today, I have to write about Heather.

I met Heather when I was the Program Coordinator at a food bank in Mandeville. She happened to come in on my first day of work while I was training for my position with the previous Program Coordinator.

I was told that Heather had suffered multiple strokes and was very hard to understand. Not very many people in the office could communicate with her. In fact, my friend who I was replacing was just about the only one.

Amazingly, that day as I sat with these two women, I understood just about every word that came from Heather's mouth. Over the course of the next two years I got to know Heather more and more. She rarely came in, but when she did she met me with a sweet embrace and was always SUCH a breath of fresh air, sweet medicine for my heart.

"Your hair looks pretty!"
That was her top compliment. She never complained, only complimented, asked about my family, showed me pictures of her three beautiful children, and asked for prayer.

She had such a heart for prayer. I'll never forget the sweet moments that were spent holding Heather's hands and praying to Jesus for her health, her children and for peace in her circumstances.

The more I got to know Heather, the more I learned about her illness. Over the course of the 12 years before I met her she had suffered nine strokes and many seizures. She struggled financially but rarely asked for help. She raised three children who have been successful in school, one will graduate college soon!

Despite her very severe illness and very desperate financial situation, Heather's smile NEVER faded, her gratitude never ceased. I think that's why she so rarely came in, she truly understood that she lacked very little, her selflessness was amazing. She only wanted for her children and she was so very proud of each one of them.

When Mercy's little life began in my belly, Heather was so excited. She and I both knew that this would mean my time at the food bank was coming to an end, but we also knew this didn't mean our relationship would end. Several times after Mercy came, I was able to coordinate our visits, and even got to introduce Mercy to Heather.

Recently I received news that Heather had another stroke and was not doing well. It had probably been close to a year since I had seen her and I was so blessed with the opportunity to visit her in her home with some friends from the food bank.

We walked in and I wept. She was lying on the couch and looked so very frail. She smiled at me and I hugged her and kissed her forehead. She complimented each of us and smiled from ear to ear as I showed her photos of my kids and told her all about them... and then she locked eyes with me and uttered something I could barely understand. She repeated and I knew, I saw a familiar look in her beautiful eyes. She was asking me to pray with her.

What an honor, to sit on the floor by this beautiful soul, grasp her hands in mine, and pray that Jesus would hold her, hold her children. To sit there next to her and praise Him for allowing me to be part of her life and for the work He did on my heart by showing me her precious heart.

Heather died this morning. Her sweet daughter called me minutes after she took her last breath and we wept on the phone together. She has been released from years of suffering into the glory of her Savior, standing as upright as can be and singing His praises clearly and beautifully. Sixteen years of suffering that led to this glorious day of her new life, sixteen years that to her were not seen as years of suffering, but blessed moments that she was able to spend with her loved ones. Sweet moments to share her heart and the love and grace that Jesus offers.

We are grieving, friends, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Heather has shown me what it looks like to find joy and contentment no matter how dyer our circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13) and how to have hope when life looks terribly hopeless. Will you join me in praying for this sweet family today? Will you join me in praying that we may each have a heart like Heather's? A heart that desires to bring joy and love to others no matter what our personal circumstances may look like?