If you have been following me for a while, you know that on October 13, my younger sister, Christa, passed away from cancer at the age of 35. Like many of you, 2020 has been the hardest year of my life. But as I look back on her life and death, God has taught me several things along the way. I have been thinking about writing this post for a while, but as I was doing my devotions this morning, I felt God telling me that today was the day.
We were amazed at the number of people that came through the line at my sister’s viewing and funeral. And time after time, they told us stories (many of which we had never heard) or ways that Christa had impacted their life. One story in particular still stands out to me. Towards the end of the viewing, a lady came up to me and said, “I met your sister at Walmart!” I smiled and said, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me at all!” My sister knew no strangers. She and my mom have this in common. This sweet lady went on to say that she left her wallet in her cart at Walmart, but she didn’t realize it until later. While the lady was frantically looking for it, my sister walked up to her and handed it to her. What my sister didn’t realize when she handed over the wallet was that it had over $7000 cash in there. This lady was getting ready to go on a trip. And, knowing Christa, she probably paid no attention to any amount of money and only looked at the ID so she could return what she had found. If you knew Christa at all, you knew that she was kind to everyone she met.
When we were helping prepare for what would be said at her funeral, I read the story of Mary and Martha in my devotions. If you are familiar with the story, in the book of Luke, you know that Martha was busy cleaning up the house, preparing the food, and making sure everything was perfect for her guests. And Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening. Martha got a little upset that Mary wasn’t helping her. But Jesus told Martha that what Mary was doing was better. She was living in the moment and not worrying about other things. I remember reading this and thinking that I am so much like Martha, but Christa was so much like Mary. Both have their positives and negatives. Christa was so good about not worrying about the way things look (opposite of me!) and could truly be present with whoever she was with. I remember my mom always said that growing up, Christa’s room was usually messy, and mine was usually clean. But Christa would have rather enjoyed time with people than making things look perfect.
Before this event happened in my life, I remember thinking that I didn’t know what to say to someone when they experienced loss. But after everything that is happened, I have come to realize that you don’t HAVE to know what to say. You don’t have to know what to write in a card, send in a text, or say in a message. The important thing is that you SHOWED UP! People won’t remember what you said to them, but they will remember that you sent the card, text, or message. They will remember that you were there for them.
Hello, my name is Candace, and I am a perfectionist. I like my house to be picked up. I don’t like to fall apart and cry. I like to wear coordinating outfits. I like to be happy. Well, 2020 has challenged these things. The children being home for six months made it a little harder keep the house picked up! My 35 year old sister being diagnosed with cancer in April and passing away in October means that I fall apart and cry at the most unexpected times. Staying home almost all of the time means that I remain in leggings and sweatpants most days with my hair pulled back in a messy bun and no makeup – and it’s okay! I have learned time and time again that while I like things to be perfect, life is just not that way. But it’s okay to fall apart, it’s okay when things aren’t perfect. In fact, it makes you more relatable to those around you that are struggling as well.
I remember one day when Christa was at my house, and we were talking. I told her, “Maybe God is having you go through all of this because He wants you to share your story.” And she truly did share her story about remaining positive and faithful to God even through all of her pain and hardships. After she died, I remember thinking the same thing about myself. “Maybe God is having ME go through all of this because He wants me to share MY story.” Since I have begun sharing my story and being honest and real with how I am doing, so many of you have reached out sharing YOUR story. And this is what connects us. Our losses may not be exactly the same, but the grief and heartache we feel is so similar. And sometimes it just helps to know that you are not alone.
Sometimes I walk around with a heaviness in my chest that physically hurts. The grief and sadness almost feels unbearable. But if I don’t let the tears out or talk to someone or write out what I am feeling, the heaviness in my chest remains. Whether you are just having coffee with a friend, calling a family member, or even getting professional help – reaching out and talking about what is going truly helps lift that burden off of your chest. Spend time meditating, breathing deep, talking to friends – all of these things help release the pressure for me.
I am amazed at the amount of people that don’t talk to members of their immediate family. Life is too short, friend. TOO SHORT! It is not worth sweating the small stuff. And in the grand scheme of things, almost everything we may be upset about is small. It may feel big in the moment, but it is not worth holding on to. Christa and I didn’t have anything to resolve between us. And we had a little over six months to spend as much time together as we could. But one year ago, she was fine. This wasn’t even on our radar. You don’t know what today will bring. I challenge you to reach out to that family member you are upset at and resolve an issues. Resolving now is better than regret later.
Are there some days that I wake up feeling so sad from the loss? YES! But I know Christa would want me to not live a life of sadness. So I won’t. I will continue to be happy overall even when I have days that feel sad. I will find joy in family and doing things I love. Some days are hard. But there is still so much to be thankful for.
Why do we wait until someone is gone to tell them all of the nice things we think about them? Why does a compliment come in our head, yet we don’t say it to the person we are with? Why do we scroll past a picture we like and not “like” or comment? Are we afraid we will make the other person feel too good? Stop getting in your own head and say what you think! If you have someone that means something to you, tell them. Don’t let time pass you by. I always tell my kids, “You will never regret being kind to someone – even if it doesn’t turn out the way you think it should.”
Above all, love Jesus. Even though there is a sometimes overwhelming sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one, when you know they are in heaven and will see them again, there is also a peace that comes. Do I miss Christa?? EVERY DAY. But I am able to find comfort in the fact that she is no longer in any pain, is in heaven, and that I will see her again.
Thanks to listening to my thoughts for the day. For me, it truly is therapeutic to get my thoughts out. I don’t know what struggles you are going through today, but I pray that this post brought you some comfort. Love to you all.
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