I walked what seemed to be a mile on high heels, while crossing the bridge that links Emory Hospital to its parking garage. It was Sunday morning, and most visitors had not arrived yet. The hallways echoed with the sound of my shoes, and in my heart, a haunting sadness lingered.
Only 30 minutes earlier, I was sitting at my Sunday School class, waiting for the teacher to start the lesson, when a friend tapped on my shoulder:
“Did y’all pray for Joy?” she asked.
I gasped. My fears were confirmed.
I had not seen my sweet friend for a couple of weeks and had wondered if everything was OK. During our last conversation, Joy had shared that she was having trouble with the treatments, but I had not heard any updates. My friend explained that Joy had been admitted to the hospital, and the prognosis was bleak.
It seemed as if cancer was winning the war.
With a heavy heart and tears flowing down my face, I grabbed my purse and rushed to the car.
I had to see my friend.
Rain poured down my windshield as prayers poured out of my heart, all the way to the hospital. And the same gloominess that usually lingers through rainy, cloudy days, rested in my soul as I walked toward Joy’s room.
“Help me be an encouragement to her, Lord,” I prayed while reaching to the doorknob.
I opened the door to a room filled with people, pictures, balloons and flowers.
From her bed, Joy’s smile brightened the room.
I reached down to hug her, with a knot in my throat and lack of words. Joy, however, had something to say right away: “God is so, so good, Patricia!”
I looked into those beautiful blue eyes and knew it – these were not rehearsed words that every Christian is compelled to say in times of trouble.
That is my sweet friend Joy.
Amazing, beautiful, faithful Joy, seeing the glory of the Father through the rain. Looking at every minute of life as a priceless gift from above. Cherishing the memories and beauty of a life well lived. Feeling grateful for every bit of breath that is left in her lungs.
At the foot of her hospital bed, a colorful quilt hangs from the ceiling. Pictures of Joy with each one of her 12 grandchildren fill the beautiful cover. Her unforgettable smile beams from each picture, inviting us into the fulness of her life.
“God has given me four incredible years. It has been so much fun!”
I couldn’t speak. And believe me, if you know me, that is a feat in itself.
Joy’s faith and, yes – joy, incredible joy through life’s darkest hour – renders everyone speechless.
We come to encourage. We leave being encouraged beyond measure.
As I drove back to church, thanking God for my friend, selfishly begging him to let her stay a little longer, I realized that while missing that morning’s service, Joy had preached a sermon that I will never forget:
We all have trials. Some are only storms that will soon pass by. Others linger for years on end. Some rob us of our peace. Others claim the life of those we love.
But for those of us who know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are God’s children, we can face our trials with courage, and look at death for what it is: merely a portal to a much better life.
My friend Joy has lived up to the meaning of her name to the fullest. Even as the lights start to dim, and the curtains of her life threaten to come down for the final act, God’s light shines in and through her, brighter than ever before.