Tribute to a Friend
July 1991. A beautiful evening in Sri Lanka. My little 1 year old and I were playing in the garden when my sister Sal stopped to chat with me. We watched my toddler delighting in the outdoors; busy as a bee, as happy as Larry. “I wish I could be part of a ministry Sal” I told her. “I really miss that.” It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my toddler’s company. I did. (Well, most of the time.) It’s not that I didn’t love him. I did. Of course I did; with every part of me. I loved being a wife and Mum and home maker. I was fulfilled. But …..I did miss being part of something bigger.
Sal nodded sympathetically. She understood. “Why don’t you start something, Anu?” she asked me. Her words echoed in my head afterwards. I thought about it. And thought some more. Oh! Come to think of it….perhaps Sal did have something there? Why don’t I start something? But then, it would need to include my precious toddler. Hmmm!
My friend Lalani and I began dreaming dreams. We met together often to pray about it. We asked God to lead us. Six months later we were ready. And “Mum and Me” was born. All of us mums and our cute little ‘Me’s met together fortnightly. To chat, to play, to discuss deep questions like ‘How do I potty train my child”? Well actually, that was only one of them. The discussions were very interesting and on a variety of topics. The kids would interrupt us constantly. But that was OK. It was all part of the fun.
Christine joined us at ‘Mum and Me’ with her adorable little 2 year old daughter Suzanne. They soon became a vital part of our fortnightly gatherings. Christine had a great sense of humour and was an interesting conversationalist. She was also a devoted Mum – and her little daughter thrived and blossomed under her care.
Fast forward 21 years.......
When holidaying in Sri Lanka a few months ago, I attended another lively Mum and Me reunion. As usual Christine graciously offered to be our hostess. What made it really remarkable was that during the previous 6 months, Christine had been facing a very tough battle with Lung cancer. Although she was extremely weak with the effects of the chemotherapy, Christine was determined to extend her warm hospitality to us in her beautiful home. On the 25th of December, she celebrated her birthday. On the 26th December she and her husband hosted a party to celebrate their silver wedding. On the 28th of December, she had us Mums over to celebrate with her.
It was a very happy time together. This time though there was sobering note – Christine had suffered deeply. We presented her with a special plaque. I hope it helped her know she was greatly appreciated. There was also a triumphant melody in our hearts that day. Christine had completed her rounds of chemotherapy and was looking forward to getting well. We all hoped and prayed she would. Sadly that did not happen. Today, only 2 months later she has stepped over the threshold from death to life. She is in a better place, where there is no suffering, no pain. Christine has been ‘promoted to glory’.
Today I celebrate my friend Christine and her life. This is my tribute to her – one who gallantly met death head on…. who showed me the way to live amidst tough times. Who taught me what’s important in life. Thank you Christine for your presence in my life and for your loving friendship. We had many phone conversations when she was sick. We prayed together often on the phone. What really amazed and inspired me was her constant optimism and positive attitude. She kept looking forward; kept hoping, never gave up. She got on with it. Did what had to be done. Laughed a lot.
Yes, her sense of humour did not dessert her. Her courage was a light shining in the darkness. A side effect of the chemotherapy was that she found it hard to sleep. She’d spent those midnight hours creating intricate, beautiful table mats. I was amazed when I saw them. What awesome skill! What inspiring creativity while in the midst of deep suffering!
Christine taught me that life needs to be grasped with all I’ve got. That no matter what occurs I shouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself. I cried when I heard the news of her death a week ago. It didn’t seem right that she who had suffered so patiently didn’t get to stay around for our next Mum and Me reunion; for her daughter’s marriage; for growing old with her husband. I wished so much that Christine would overcome her battle with cancer; that she would be able to play with her grandchildren.
What comforts me now is that she did overcome it – even if not in the way I’d hoped. Christine has overcome life and is now enjoying her well deserved rest. Her faith was a strong foundation during her suffering. She clung to Jesus – walked with him – thanked Him constantly. She embodied this verse:
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26. Today, Christine is safe in the loving arms of Jesus.
Thank you Christine for teaching me that life is short and needs to be lived fully – not putting off for tomorrow something that can be done today because tomorrow may never come. Even as I grieve at a life cut short, I also rejoice in the hope we have, together with all those who fall asleep in Jesus.
“Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
'When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory."'
1 Corinthians 15:54
Farewell Christine. We thank God for the beautiful memories you've left behind.
Not now, but in the coming years, it may be in the better land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears, And there some time, we’ll understand.
Then trust in God through all the days, fear not for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise,
Some time, some time we’ll understand.
We’ll catch the broken thread again, and finish what we here began;
Heaven will the mysteries explain, and then, ah then, we’ll understand.
We’ll know why clouds instead of sun, were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun;
’Tis there, some time, we’ll understand.
God knows the way, He holds the key, He guides us with unerring hand;
Some time with tearless eyes we’ll see; Yes, there, up there, we’ll understand.
Maxwell N Cornelius (1891)