Tonight I was in the laundry room throwing in a load when I heard precious little foot steps coming my way. I peeked around the corner and said, "Peek-a-boo!", as I watched my 14 month old toddle down the hall towards me. She laughed as she held the straw to her sippy cup tightly in her teeth.
I went back to the laundry and she kept coming. We continued our little game until at last she made it into the room. It was a long walk and it did not escape me how amazing this simple thing was. It was just last week when she at last gained enough courage to let go and walk without holding on to something or someone for more than a few steps. Here we are, a week later and she's walking all over the place...more than she's crawling.
It's been a gradual process. By her first birthday, she was standing on her own and beginning to cruise a bit. This was nothing short of miraculous. She's not only walking earlier than all the other kids, she's the only one who didn't need some form of therapy or exercise to get her there.
It's kind of funny to think that even though she was showing signs of walking and progressing quicker than the others, I thought she'd be walking before now. Does it make sense to say that the outcome has been on the quick side, but the process has been rather slow? First was standing, then weeks later, moving along furniture for short jaunts, then letting go for one or two steps, then a few more, then walking a bit, and finally walking more than crawling.
So what's happened is that I've seen it coming for so long, it kind of overwhelmed me to think about it all today, standing in front of my washing machine holding dirty clothes. There was nothing special about it - no cute outfit or hair bow, no video or pictures, not even anyone around to applaud - just the simple realization that the moment I've been waiting for is really here.
This moment caused me to reflect on another slow process that has occurred over the past thirteen months. Nelson's mom had a stroke last December. Throughout the year, she had many more. Each one taking more and more of her away. First she was unable to walk, later she lost movement in one arm, and in May she lost the ability to communicate. It has been hard to watch such a vibrant woman go through so much suffering.
To put a different perspective on it, she was at the hospital when Felicity was born. She came down with some kind of cold after that and wasn't able to come see her for fear of getting Felicity sick. I remember her calling me to apologize for not being able to help out with all that was going on. Felicity was two weeks old when she had her first stroke. She was never the same again.
There came a point in the whole process where it dawned on me that the end of life is at times, very much like the beginning. The longer her life went, the less Nancy could do for herself. In the final few months, I felt she and Felicity were kindred spirits in many ways. Both frustrated by their inability to communicate or make their bodies do what they wanted them to do. I think that's why Nancy perked up the most when Felicity came to visit. Without fail, her eyes would light up and a slight smile would come over her face. If I put Felicity on her left side, Nancy could still reach out for her.
The last time we saw her, Felicity got into the bed with Nancy and crawled all over her. She held her hand and gave her kisses. I think she knew what the rest of us did not. I think she knew that was the last time she would see her alive and she was saying goodbye.
To the human eye, the two events present as a dichotomy. One at the beginning of her life making forward progress, the other at the end of her life regressing - both suffering through the process.
We know that to make advancements, suffering is necessary. Sacrifice is usually involved in improvement. Training and hard work are required to get better. Muscles get sore when they are growing. We accept this. Growing pains are a part of life.
If we think of death as we should; if we acknowledge that it is indeed a beginning, rather than the end, shouldn't the same apply? Getting to Heaven is no easy task. It requires nothing less than perfection. Surely, some suffering on our part is a necessary part of achieving this. Nancy had more than her fair share of suffering, especially in her final year.
Look at God's only Son. Didn't He suffer? If we want to be closer to Jesus, if we desire to be like Him, we have to suffer. I believe that Nancy was closer to Jesus than most people this past year. I believe that even though she couldn't communicate with us, she communicated with Him.
Her death, though it makes all of us sad, was her endgame. It was, after all her goal. There is only one way to get to Heaven, and death is part of that. So although I will miss her terribly and I'm sad the kids, especially Felicity, will not get the chance to have her present at the big events of their lives, I am grateful that God finally allowed her suffering to end and I rejoice that she is now with Him talking up a storm I'm sure.
So you see, both Felicity and Nancy were making forward progress towards an end goal. The only difference is that Nancy has finished her race and Felicity is still at the starting line.
We love you Nancy and we will miss you dearly, but we rejoice in the knowledge that you fought the good fight, you have finished your race, and you have kept the faith. May your soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.