I am posting this blog for my Christian sister, Barbara, who has run into problems logging into the blog. She has a poignant story to tell us about her sister, Shirley, who can no longer swallow food.
In November 2010 my sister Shirley had a hemorrhagic stroke which paralyzed her esophagus and rendered her ability to swallow, a coveted gift that others regard only as a normal, involuntary bodily function. Once the social butterfly with more friends than most people will ever know, Shirley now finds herself living in a senior complex, alone and seemingly forgotten., The members of her long time bridge club shun her participation in the game since even her saliva has to be deposited in a cup, sometimes followed by drool. Over time, the woman who hosted parties, had droves of people enjoying the warm hospitality of her home and swimming pool, and who always seemed available to those in need, finds herself without as much as a visit from the friends and even family members she loved and cared for. To make matters worse, her son and daughter-in-law live five states away, and her daughter has taken a sudden new interest in her birth mother. Did I mention that both her children were adopted and that her husband, whom she had been caring for, died while parked in a wheelchair next to her bed while she was recuperating from the stroke.
As I write, my heart aches for my sister. Due to cataracts and other health issues on the part of my husband and myself, the ninety miles that separate us might just as well be a thousand if one wants to consider daily, or even weekly visits. Thanksgiving is coming, and though I want so badly to bring her to my home, my family wants to protect me from the extra responsibilities due to my age, the involvement with feeding tubes and general health care as I prepare the Thanksgiving meal. If one were to think about it, our lives revolve around eating as we socialize with those at the table.
At this point you must wonder how my sister copes; one who never even wanted to lie on the beach because she viewed it as boring and limiting in her ability to live life more meaningfully. I can tell you that Shirley is one of the most positive and amazing people I have ever met. Once so sure that God would restore her esophagus, she now accepts the prognosis of the doctors who’ve told her, “It’s not going to happen!” She will tell you that she does not feel alone in her quiet apartment and knows that the Lord has a reason for this new chapter in her life. She will tell you that she has learned patience, a virtue she never practiced or sought to attain. She keeps regular company with God and spends time praying for the well-being of others. She is a kinder, more complacent person who desires more to have spiritual food than that which the world cannot give.
Shirley is not even able to swallow water. However, as Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: 13-14, “Everyone who drinks this (well) water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
In John 6:35, Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” The feeding tubes which go directly into my sister’s stomach sustain her physical life, but the spiritual food and water she now seeks does far more for her soul. She is seeking Jesus who will and is filling the void left by the world. Now experiencing visual problems, Shirley has ordered an audio of the Bible, something that would never have occurred to her before the stroke. Though we often, in fact most always, misunderstand God’s allowing things to go awry in our lives, we eventually learn that His plan is always the better plan. When He draws us to our knees and opens our hearts and minds to an understanding of His indescribable love for us, through His death on the cross, we are feasted with blessings the world cannot understand.
Though I wouldn’t wish Shirley’s condition on anyone, I can rejoice in knowing that today, this very day, she is walking on a path toward a personal relationship with Jesus. Though she still has many questions in my conversations with her, I pray daily that the Holy Spirit with enlighten her with His gifts. I pray that the long famine in her life without spiritual food and water will end and find her feasting on the living Lord Jesus Christ as she someday meets the ever satisfying true Bread of Life with whom she will spend eternity!