I can’t believe it is November already. This year has gone by so quickly. It seems that it was just summer, but the snow and ice on the ground outside are a testament to the fact that autumn has flown by and we are well into the early part of our Alaskan winter.
The month of November stands out for several reasons. It is, of course, the month where the weather really starts to turn cold. It’s the month of Thanksgiving. For 27 years, it was the month that our family celebrated Jessica’s birth. It will always be that for us, but two Novembers ago, it also became the month that she died.
I was very depressed all the way through November of last year. It was the first anniversary and it was pretty rough. I don’t want November to be like that again this year. There will be sadness, but I would prefer to channel that sadness into remembering the happy times and the good things about her. She died of a drug overdose after a long struggle with substance abuse. That was bad. It was painful and ugly and bad. But there was so much about her that was good. She was a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a friend and she took such joy in all of those relationships. She loved us all so much, and we all loved her more than she ever knew. She was hard-working, creative, fun, loyal and generous. I could go on and on about all of the good qualities that she had. But the very best thing about Jessica is bigger than all of that. It’s bigger than her life and so much bigger than her death. And truly, the best thing about her isn’t really about her at all. The best thing about Jessica is the One to whom she belongs. She belongs to Jesus.
No matter how dark and sad things looked at the end, we know that we didn’t lose her the day that she died. Jesus took her home to be with him and he did for her that day what everyone else – including Jessica herself – had tried to do and failed. He healed her. She is where she belongs and she is finally doing what she was created to do. She is in the presence of Christ, and she is worshipping him. I find tremendous hope in the knowledge that one day I will join her there. And for now, I find comfort in knowing that she and I – though separated for now – both lift our voices to praise the same Lord.
I can’t see her. I can’t talk to her. I can’t call her on Thanksgiving, or send her a goofy card and a gift for her birthday. I can’t do the things with her that sisters do, but I can worship the Lord with her. I don’t have to wait to join her in that endeavor.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a song that I often listen to and sing along with when I am missing my sister; grieving for the pain she suffered and for the loss of her company. This song reminds me to focus not on my own grief and pain, but on the God who suffered for me and has ordained all of my days – yes, along with their suffering – in his infinite wisdom and love, for his glory. This song reminds me that Jessica was never outside of God’s loving care and that his love did not fail her. Her flesh did fail, but God did not. He never does. He is the Lord of all things and he is glorfied in all things. Even the things that are frail, broken, and small.
“Praise to the Lord of the small broken things,
Who sees the poor sparrow that cannot take wing,
Who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street,
Who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.
Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid,
Who girds them with courage and lends them his aid,
He pours out his Spirit on the vessel so weak
That the timid can serve and the silent can speak.
Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
Who heals their afflictions or carries them till
They leave this tired frame and to paradise fly
To never be sick and never to die.
Praise him, oh praise him, all ye who live,
Who’ve been given so much and can so little give,
Our frail, lisping praise God will never despise,
He sees his dear children through mercy-filled eyes.”
~ Johanna Anderson
A beautiful choral arrangement of this song can be heard here.