Sacred community

She had left her body about an hour earlier.

Twelve of us stood around her hospital bed, hands clasped, lips forming the words to Amazing Grace.

Scriptures read, stories shared, tears shed.

It was one of the most sacred experiences of my life.

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I had unknowingly entered a sacred sisterhood.  A band of women caring for a dying friend. They called themselves Donna’s Angels and I, out of a desire to be kind to the gravely ill mother of my son’s friend, became a member.  I had no idea the magnitude of blessing I would receive.

Friends that gave up their nights and weekends with their families to stroke the hair and rub the back of a sister in Christ. It required a level of sacrifice I had never seen. And, these women made that sacrifice so willingly and generously.

Community was birthed in the notes left for the next shift, the texts and emails coordinating rides for the kids and meals and medication changes.    Most of these women were friends with Donna for years, some of us knew of her more than we knew her.  All of us loved her and her children and sought to make her last days comfortable and comforted.  I can say with confidence that every single Angel received more than she gave.  The gift of this amazing community was one of the most precious gifts that came from this experience.

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At her funeral yesterday, one of the Angels said her friendship with Donna proved that love is thicker than blood.

The blood of the Lamb united these women as sisters.  Friendship forged a bond that cancer could not destroy.  Love won.  And, my heart has been forever changed.

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One of my dear friends and a fellow Angel shared this story at Donna’s funeral yesterday.  It made me long for Heaven and rejoice that Donna is already there:

Waterbugs and Dragonflies
by Doris Stickney

Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were
very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in awhile one of their colony seemed to lose int…erest in going
about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another. “One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?” Up, up, up it slowly went….Even
as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return…

“That’s funny!” said one water bug to another. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second… “Where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. “I have an idea”. The next one
of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”

“We promise”, they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what
was happening, he had broke through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver
wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings…The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to
rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying
around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: “The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking,
the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…

“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least, I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new
body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air…….

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Donna taught me that you reap the love that you sow.  She cultivated deep and lasting friendships.  She invested in others and that investment paid dividends of compassion, time and love at the end of her life.  We would all be wise to learn from her example.  embrace community.

Community is crucial to our spiritual, emotional and physical health.  Community is the heart of (in)courage and the (in)RL conference.  I am hosting an (in)RL meetup at my house this Saturday from 10am-2pm.  If you are local to the four state area (PA, WV, MD, VA) please email me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com for my address. I would love to meet you in real life!

 

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