The following is something I started writing in the days surrounding Lizzie’s death and that I was only able to finish recently. I wanted to share it on Friday—her 20th birthday—but was traveling and without Internet access, so today works, too.
We think about you every day, Lizzie, and miss you in every thought. Happy Birthday!
I thought about the first thing Lizzie might have said to Jesus as she met him face to face. My immediate thought was, “Please tell me Ryan Gosling will be here one day.”
But after she gets out all of her jokes, I imagine her looking Him straight in the eye and saying “Oh Jesus, I adored you. I laid my life before you. Oh Jesus, how I loved you.”
Once, while visiting Lizzie in hospice, I witnessed her mother, Dianne, help her take a few steps from a chair to her hospital bed. I couldn’t help but think about the first few steps Dianne probably helped Lizzie take as a small child. My inner reflection on the overwhelming dissonance between those first few steps of joy and those last few steps of sorrow soon became tangible tears. Tears that pleaded “Nineteen years. Nineteen years is just not enough steps.”
I felt this way for a while. Still do. Probably always will.
But on some days, on some rare days, I am able to remember that every single step of those 19 years was filled with joy. Not perfect circumstances, but joy. Because Lizzie was joy.
And in these occasional moments on those rare days I am able to recognize that Lizzie did in fact beat cancer. With every step she took. Yes, Lizzie beat cancer in the way she continued to not just walk but dance through life even when a disease tried to strip her of all she had.
She beat cancer when she found simple delight in the silliness of holding a baby goat.
She beat cancer every time she made one of us laugh even when it was at her own expense.
She beat cancer when she showed up to the skating rink in the shiniest gold wind suit known to man.
She surely beat it when she shimmied for her male hospice nurse she had fallen for.
She beat it when she sat in her wheelchair outside the hospital, conversing with a man who just needed to talk, because his wife’s health was declining.
She beat cancer when she showed up to youth group and volunteered to be bald Brittney Spears circa 2007 for an announcement video.
She beat it when she danced at prom and walked across the stage at graduation.
She beat cancer when she taught an entire community to be a positive change in the world.
She beat it when she gave us all the courage to take more steps, one foot in front of the other, no matter how weary we might be.
Lizzie beat cancer because her faith always told her there was hope beyond her existing experiences, and now that very faith has found her resting in the arms of Jesus.
Today is a rare day. And I remember these things.
So I kneel here, and every day to follow, in my humanness desperately holding onto that one game changing truth—that while we have lost profoundly, Lizzie has gained, not in part but in full. Her body is redeemed, her faith is now sight and her life is everlasting.
I imagine now that Lizzie is walking side by side with Jesus in that sweet by and by that we can only sing about. And somewhere on that beautiful shore, they both wear matching flower crowns braided across their foreheads—hand crafted by Lizzie of course.
And as the waves tenderly glide across their feet, Jesus is ever so gently putting his hand around her shoulder, looking deep into her eyes, saying: Job well done. Life well lived. My good. And my faithful servant.
I’m reminded of a song we sing in our youth group on Wednesday nights.
When shadows fall on us/We will not fear/We will remember
When darkness falls on us/ We will not fear/ We will remember
When all seems lost/When we’re thrown and we’re tossed/We remember the cost
We are resting in the shadow of the cross
However painful our grief might be, we are resting in the shadow of the cross. And Lizzie is living.
LIVING! Her lungs are filled with air and her legs can dance again!
Yes, Lizzie is living in the light of the resurrection. To God be the glory. And peace be with us.