As I faced summer vacation last week I had no idea that mine was going to begin with a proverbial bang. Yes, the 4th of July is right around the corner, but that didn’t prepare me for the ‘spiritual fireworks’ that awaited. My mother-in-law Judy’s condition (she has breast cancer), has steadily deteriorated, but we were not expecting the phone call that speeded up the necessity to visit Florida and say goodbye. But that is exactly what happened Monday morning when my father-in-law called and advised a ‘sooner rather than later’ visit. Paul and I discussed the ramifications of such a decision, and then he spent the day researching the options. Amongst the choices we had to make that day, one alone was the most difficult for me: I would need to stay home with the daughter, the dog, and the two cats. It would, in the end, be easier for Paul to travel alone and better for me to remain here. I was not up to another trip (of indeterminate time), while he had gained permission from his boss to work from Florida.
That decision meant I would not have the chance to say goodbye in person, but I had already had my most important discussions with Judy several years ago. She had long been interested in my ‘belief’, but mostly because she thought we (Paul and I) were rather foolish for believing in God and then living out that belief. It’s been fifteen years since my father-in-law’s first wife (my husband’s mother) died, and after his remarriage to my current mother-in-law, she began by using that time to pick apart and question every decision Paul and I made, from buying our first house to what rules we laid down for the daughter we later had. Over time she went from being hostile to religion to finally asking what it was that made me so certain that there was a God, and what He had done for us. Two years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer she had passed from hostility to open and immediate interest, and I was pleased to spend time explaining why I thought she needed to figure out what was important in her life. None of us have a guaranteed tomorrow, and terminal illness has a way of making people reassess their lives. Last summer she began attending both church and Bible Study with us, a direction I might have never thought possible all those years ago when she and I first met. But even more important, I had grown to love this woman who had spent years trying to pick my motives apart yet in the end admitted that we were right, and that God did exist.
Tonight, as I think back over those years, I see that the questions she asked and the decisions she made last year came not from one special day of ‘spiritual fireworks’, but from a long and lengthy study of our unwavering witness. As Christians we need to remember that our life is on display each and every day, and we never know what word or action the Holy Spirit will use to change a heart.
For me, at a time when I cannot go and say goodbye in person, my hope is that the most important gift of time and love has already been given.