This past week, another of my brave and beautiful warriors departed this life victorious. I am so proud of her.
I am sure that she would not have thought of herself as a warrior nor would most of the people who knew her. Certainly she would not have thought of herself as brave or beautiful.
And yet she was all of these things.
Who or what was the foe that engaged her in battle? How could she have been a warrior without anyone knowing?
I can only say that some of the greatest battles are fought within.
This courageous soul had a dark place inside of her, a place so dark and awful that she was terrified to go there, to find who or what lurked in that inky blackness of self. Most likely that part of her was born from a very troubled childhood in which abuse was a routine part of life.
On the outside, she gave the appearance of being a meek and agreeable person, kind and perhaps a bit goofy - but certainly not "crazy".
Yet, from that dark place in her mind, she was regularly bombarded with vicious words telling her that she was stupid, bad and worthless. It told her that she didn't deserve to get better and that she should die. It badgered her, telling her to kill herself, to "just get it over with" and "do it! do it!"
She grew tired of the noise within. Often she wanted to kill herself just to make it stop.
Yet this voice was not the only voice within. There was also a "teensy little voice" that did not believe these accusations. A voice that spoke up about wanting to get better and live.
While the battle raged on the inside, the body struggled with more and more serious medical conditions, each offering its own variety of pain and suffering, as well as fears about more suffering in days to come.
"Why not just kill yourself now", the inner voice urged, "before things get too bad or out of control?"
Each illness also brought medical bills and increasing stress to her family, enabling the dark place within to issue even more accusations that her life brought more trouble than it was worth.
Everyone would be better off without her, it claimed. And all of the evidence seemed to point to this, as her illnesses eventually rendered her unable to get out of bed.
That teensy little voice of hope was almost smothered. Stripped of nearly all control over her life, our brave warrior seemed to have nowhere to turn. What could she do in the face of such an enemy?
I was but one sent to walk with her, unworthy, but privileged to be called to help fight so holy a war.
Throughout our long walk together, we talked many times about suicide. Although the demons of despair were never far from her, she had one very powerful weapon: she loved her family.
I am always awed when I encounter someone like this courageous soul who can love their way through untold pain and suffering, despite having received so little nurturance early in life. How does one who has been given so little learn to give so much?
However, the enemy was not willing to cede victory, despite this formidable weapon of hers. In fact, the enemy sought to use it against her - to convince her that she had failed even at this. It tried to convince her that she was so bad and worthless that she had now managed to destroy whatever love she had previously created within her family.
At this point, the teensy little voice was barely perceptible.
And so we began to talk about God.
The God she knew - or didn't know - was one of threat and punishment more than one of healing and forgiveness. While acknowledging that he might be loving, she feared encountering him and hearing him sadly inform her that she just wasn't good enough for heaven.
When I told her that forgiveness and healing were already hers and she had only to want them, she responded, "It can't be that easy."
And I replied, "Actually, it can."
As the brave one's health steadily deteriorated, I told her that I wasn't opposed to her dying, though I would surely miss her. But I told her that suicide was still unacceptable.
Many might question what possible difference it could make at this point. If she was going to die, she was going to die. Why would it matter if she ended it herself or if she waited?
"It matters," I told her, "because I don't want you to leave this life with your final act being one of despair." I told her that I wanted more for her than that.
I encouraged her to find peace with herself and her family so that, when her time came, she would not leave her children feeling conflicted or abandoned. She still had the choice of leaving them a legacy of love rather than one of despair.
The last time I saw this lovely person awake and conscious she told me that where before there had been tension and stress, she was now at peace with each member of her family. A month or so before that, she had told me she had been talking to God and asking for forgiveness.
As things went from bad to worse with her ailing body, this past week her family was faced with the difficult decision of discontinuing life support. I had the privilege of being with them when she was relieved of the equipment that tethered her soul to her body.
Though she was sedated, I talked to her and prayed for her. I left her breathing on her own, my final words granting her permission to move on when she was ready.
Approximately 12 hours later, she did so, surrounded by love and leaving love in her wake. Despair was nowhere near her, the demons scattering as the Savior claimed His loved one for Himself.
She was victorious and she was free.
Her soul is now made beautiful in Love for all eternity.
All praise to the Savior,
for in His love
He has trampled down sin and death,
delivering us from suffering
and bringing us to glory