For me it's the dishes. Not so much loading the dishwasher, but just the things that need to be hand washed in the sink. I don't know why I dislike it so much or why I procrastinate this chore. I don't mind doing a sink full of dishes at someone else's house, and at my house there usually aren't more than a few to do at a time, so it really doesn't take long. The warm water is even kind of relaxing. But still the prospect of doing the dishes gets me procrastinating every time, and I always say I can do those dirty dishes "later".
|(Not my sink or dishes, photo copyright Miss Pupik, found on flickr here)|
However, I've recently been enlightened to a new way to think about dirty dishes. I can be thankful for them. I'll tell you more about this new viewpoint in a minute, but for now I want to leave those dirty dishes in the sink and talk about something more personal and sad that happened this past week.
A childhood friend of mine, Wendy, passed away on Wednesday. Her death was due to cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited chronic disease she lived with, fought against, and I suppose she would say learned from since birth.
Amazing. Miracle. Angel. Strong. Christ-like. Teacher. Hilarious. Example. Friend. Beautiful. These are the words people use to describe Wendy, and they're all true.
Wendy moved into my neighborhood during our late elementary school years. She was one year behind me in school, but we were just a month apart in age. We went to all our church classes together and often played in the neighborhood and sometimes at each other's houses. Wendy always had a cough and had a hard time breathing. CF primarily affects the lungs. Thick mucus forms in the lungs, causing extreme breathing difficulties. CF affects other organs as well. Over time the lungs and other organs lose their ability to function and the patient dies of the disease. It is a painful way to die. When we were kids that was one thing always in the back of my mind about Wendy: she was going to die. I was terrified about that.
You see, treatment and life expectancy for those with CF have improved greatly over the past 60 years. In the 1950s a baby born with CF would most likely only live a few years. When Wendy was born in 1978, the median survival age had improved, bur it still was under 18 years. Wendy and her family didn't know if she would grow to adulthood. If she would be able to serve a mission for our church, get a higher education, join the workforce, or have the opportunity to date and perhaps get married. Another CF patient in my grade at school died while we were teenagers. Wendy's time was always borrowed. That she lived and worked until age 33 is quite a miracle. (In case you're interested, the median survival age for CF patients born in 2009 is 38. So much improvement over the past 30 years!)
During our childhood Wendy was often in the hospital. I remember several trips our church classes took to visit her there. We would have our lesson in her room. These were tender experiences for me. Wendy's nurses would perform a fairly violent percussive massage technique on her back to break up mucus in her lungs. It looked painful. She was brave. She always had a sunny disposition and a smile. I never heard her complain.
After we graduated from high school Wendy and I worked together in church for a few years as co-teachers of three successive classes of energetic seven- and eight-year-old children. I'm sure Wendy surpassed me as a teacher in every way. She always had a strong testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ and a natural and unselfconscious way of sharing that testimony with others. She shared her testimony out loud, and I was blessed to hear it often over the pulpit in our church services, but she also shared her testimony by her example.
Now, I don't want to make Wendy sound all pious and boring. She was funny! She had a sweet and quirky, somewhat sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor. We had some fun times co-hosting class parties at her house for our little students. (Class parties are a well-worn reverence reward for primary children.) After a few years as primary teachers together, we both moved on -- me to a church congregation specifically for young adults, and Wendy to a mission for our church. Yes, she was able to serve that mission she desired, and I can only imagine how many lives she changed.
Our paths crossed again after her mission for a while, but then I moved out of town and my parents did too, and we lost touch. The advent of Facebook put us back in touch with each other, and over the years I have enjoyed reading Wendy's funny status updates there.
While I was living in Pennsylvania I learned her health was really beginning to fail. A few friends planned to visit her as a class reunion of sorts, but I couldn't attend due to distance. I don't know if they ended up going. Her health improved somewhat and she was able to continue working.
A couple of weeks ago she posted saying that she had had to leave her job, and that she was receiving hospice care. The end was near. I wrote to her privately about coming to visit her if she was up for it, and started reaching out to other friends who might want to visit with me. At first Wendy sounded like she might not be well enough for visitors, but then on Monday this past week she wrote and asked me to set it up. I wrote back and asked if Thursday would work, but a day or two went by and I didn't hear back. I went to her sister's Facebook page, thinking I would check in to see how Wendy was doing. Instead I saw the first of many condolence messages that would soon be flooding in, "I'm sorry for your loss."
Wendy had died, and I was too late.
In the weeks leading up to Wendy's death, her sister posted some links on Facebook about Wendy. One was a short video made about Wendy by a friend of hers, which I highly encourage you to watch, and the other was a link to a blog of Wendy's on a CF support website, where Wendy talks about the approaching end of her life. Here's a passage from that post. She posted under the name "stillkicking".
"...Well my friends, I don't know how much longer I shall be coherent enough to write my ramblings. Also I don't want to focus on the negative side of dying. It is a painful process. But I never walk alone. I thank the Lord that He is there helping me with each painful step.
To close, with one last final sarcastic remark. I wrote my own obituary, but my family doesn't want to use it (shocker), so I'll post it here
"Now we lay her down to rest, a load of mucus in her chest.
Since she died before she woke, that's one less day she'll have to choke"
Happy coughing everyone, and be sure to laugh a little, cry a little and just enjoy the journey God bless you all!"
How do you like that obituary? It's great! A taste of Wendy's humor.
I enjoyed that post a lot, so I clicked through a few of Wendy's other posts, and one really hit me.
Okay, Back to That Sink Full of Dirty Dishes
One of her posts was about doing the dishes at her house, and a sprititual experience she had while doing them. Wendy says it best, so I will put her full post here. Please read it. I promise you will be touched and have your eyes opened to a new view on work, trials, and what you think you "can't" do. Understand that Wendy was living at home with her parents, so the sink full of dirty dishes she describes likely weren't just from her.
The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways
Posted By: stillkicking @ 04/11/2012 03:26 PM
I work for a small business, so I only have a 6 month cobra extention. Medicaid qualifications in my state are particularly difficult, I would have to wipe out all my savings and retirement before I'd qualify. That idea doesn't thrill me, so I haven't wanted to go that route. Anyway, come Saturday, I was still having a great difficulty with the air hunger and feeling awful. There was so much to do and I didn't feel like doing anything. I was however, thanking the Lord for a weekend to rest.
Well that evening there was a large pile of dishes that had been sitting out all day, I thought, I can't do much but I can at least, do these dishes. As I began I immediately got my answer from the Lord about my work situation. The Spirit whispered to me that work is a blessing to me not a curse. He knows it's difficult but it also helps a great deal in taking my mind off the suffocating feelings of this stage of the disease. I see how that is true, even while doing the dishes I immediately "felt" better, mentally wise. I was able to focus my mind on something besides breathing. Yes, there will be days where I have to rest, many of them, but inasmuch as I can work, it will be a blessing to me.
By focusing on others and serving and contributing whatever I can, even though it may be a great deal less than I used to, is what feeds and drives the spirit inside us, and the spirit can then drive the body further than it otherwise would go. How grateful I am to a merciful God who pours out His blessings upon me and then opens my eyes that I may see them for what they are here and now.
Now please realize I'm not suggesting or recommending anything for anyone else. This is my blog, and my experiences - you can go have your own But for me this has been a big help and I've seen more and more each day at work this week, how much of a blessing it is to me, even when it's difficult
Happy Coughing everyone
I really can't add much to what Wendy said. All I know is, I will never look at my dirty dishes the same way again. I will always, always think of Wendy standing at the sink, gasping for air, washing those dishes and thanking the Lord that she could wash them. She is right. Work is blessing, trials are blessings, and WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!
Wendy Partridge's Obituary and Funeral Information
One of my favorite articles: The Blessing of Work ("Work is not a matter of economic need alone; it is a spiritual necessity..." It includes direction on how to apply your interests and talents to your work and how to teach children the value of work.)
Video about Wendy, "The Joys of Adversity"
Visit the website of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to learn more about cystic fibrosis, get involved in increasing awareness and research, or make a donation
Thank you for reading. I'm interested to know, what's one positive lesson you've learned from someone in your life who is now gone?