Friday, December 16, 2011

Keeping Elizabeth in Mind

Last night, as we went out to the final vows of Sister Bernadette of the Franciscans of Halifax, we saw an ambulance outside a neighbour's house. It was as we feared; they were coming to take Elizabeth to hospital. Her mother told Nick this morning it is not likely she will return home.

Elizabeth was found to have cancer several years ago and was treated for it, somewhat successfully. Then it returned and was in another organ, and about six months ago, she was told that it was terminal and that they really couldn't do much for her except pain control.

Elizabeth is a 50 year old single woman, living with her mother and step-father. She is not well educated and one might be tempted to think of her as simple. During her working life, she worked as kitchen help in large cafeterias around the city.

But simple she is not; she knows what her life is about and she has accepted with grace the suffering that has been hers. She openly tells what is going on and doesn't hide the fact that it is hard, but she just accepts it with no sense of why me?

I think of Elizabeth as one of the "suffering souls" in this world. Some people get a lot of suffering and they seem the ones who least deserve it. I have met one other woman in my life whom I knew was a "suffering soul". Dianne in Ottawa, a mother who lost her first child to leukemia, and a woman who graced my life with her pure faith. She prayed about everything; if a neighbour asked one of her children to come over and pray play, Dianne would ask God if that was the best thing at that moment. She prayed about absolutely everything; it was as if she was living in the presence of God continuously. Dianne too had cancer and died from it at the young age of 52. I heard from friends that visiting her during her final days was humbling, as Dianne showed more care for her visitors than she did for herself.

Over the past few months, I have felt that Elizabeth is another of God's suffering souls. In some inexplicable way, they carry the cross of Christ in this world and something inside of me says that this is for others.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. - Colossians 1:24

How can anything be lacking in Christ's afflictions? I don't understand this and sense that it is some mystery essential to the meaning of human life. But it resonates as true when I see Elizabeth and remember Dianne, both of whom suffered willingly. And those sufferings somehow bear merit for the rest of us.

Please say a prayer for Elizabeth. She doesn't have long to live and how fitting that she will be facing her final trial at this time when we celebrate the birth of Christ. Lord be merciful to her and give her peace and send her those consolations from You that will fill her with joy.


Elena said...

play with her children or pray with her children? I will pray for Elizabeth.

Julie Culshaw said...

play, Dianne was so prayerful that she prayed about everything, even play times.