A homily for Linda

A few years ago, Pastor Dick came to choir rehearsal one night. He sat beside me, laid his head against my shoulder and said “my job sucks.” He had just come from the ER where he was in attendance at the unsuccessful code blue for two young people, members of our church, who had been mortally injured in a hiking accident in the canyon.

Ministers and doctors are often called on to give bad news, or to be in attendance at stressful times. It is a hazard of the job. There are times however, when that part of the job is made much harder due to the personal relationship that is present between the doctor or minister and the patient.

Linda had been my patient for ten years, from the time I arrived to practice in our small town, and I had come to know her not only as a darn good tele tech, but as a coworker and as a friend. Her cancer had been found incidentally: just a small xray shadow that shouldn’t have been there. The follow up CT scan demonstrated metastatic disease, and initially the oncologists advised her that she might have as little as six months to live. The giving of such bad news, always uncomfortable for a doctor, was harder because Linda was my friend. To quote Pastor Dick, my job sucked.

She took the news as I knew she would: with humor, with anger (that such a disease would dare attack her!) and with determination to fight for all she was worth. And for the next eighteen months, she fought. Hard.

In the years I knew Linda, she confessed to me her faith in God, her belief in an afterlife and her trust in a loving Savior who would help her through the bad times, and who would be there to greet her when the fight was over. And though she often confessed her fear of dying, and her concerns about leaving her family behind, she knew that the cloud she was living under would eventually clear, and she would enter into the grace of eternal life as promised by Jesus Christ.

I was asked to provide the homily at her upcoming memorial service, and so reviewed the chosen readings for inspiration. The bible passage that her family chose is this: 1 Corinthians, chapter 13-one that is typically read at weddings. I found great comfort in re-reading it in light of a funeral, especially verse 7: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

A story: The new year was fogged in. My drive in to work was anxiety-ridden due to poor visibility and the reflected glare of my headlights. I had stayed up late the night before, playing New Year’s games with dear friends, then was called to ICU for an admission.

The combination of hazardous driving conditions and lack of sleep caused me to drive much slower than usual. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I noted a vehicle moving up quickly behind me. It was quite a bright yellow-it was so yellow that I thought to myself that I had never seen a Jeep in quite that shade before. Suddenly the fog broke, and we both burst into bright sunlight just as the Jeep passed me. The WHITE Jeep. It was not yellow at all. The fog through which I drove altered my perception of the car’s color.

The end of the 13th chapter of Corinthians ends with these verses: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know, just as I am also known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

Linda bore, believed, hoped, and endured, and I know that she has entered into a place of peace, of no pain, and of no suffering. Linda no longer sees dimly. She no longer knows in part. She has entered into the grace of eternal life promised through the gospel, and she sees clearly. Those of us left behind can take comfort in her legacy of faith, hope and love, and the clear promise that the same waits for us.