Monday, August 22, 2005

a life recorded

Her name was Martha, and she was born eleven years, two months and thirty-eight days before me. She was covered by Farmers Insurance and adhered to a strict regimen of minerals and supplements; her daily dose included 300 mgs of Passionfever and 500 mg of Psyllium. Her blood type was A+ and she had no allergies.

I learned all this when I found and skimmed Martha's six-ring, refillable, 2001 personal planner in a nearby thrift store. Tucked in among the other planners--some oversized, some slightly scuffed, some just plain nasty-looking, the small, earthy-colored tapestry cover caught my eye and drew my hand into the book bin. I loved the feel of the planner in my hand and the ease with which it unzipped. I knew instantly I'd buy it--even before I discovered Martha inside.

It startled me a bit to read such personal information about a stranger, but like a voyeur who happens upon a wide-open window, I kept looking. I found out that Martha went to the symphony in January, and that the Austen in her life had the same birthday as my middle sister. I learned that Martha had had a library book due back February 2nd, her new ID card expired in March, and she met a friend for coffee in early April.

But around that same time--early to mid April--Martha recorded a Wednesday afternoon doctor's appointment ... and then another for the following Monday. By Thursday, she'd added a new name, with the word "oncologist" after his title. In the flip of just three more pages, it became clear. Martha had cancer.

It must have been a late-stages discovery, or such an aggressive cancer that the treatments didn't touch it. For despite a flurry of doctor visits and scribbled notes about the side-effects of the prescriptions and treatments she tried, by summer of that year, Martha's entries ended. Standing along the back aisle of the thrift store, with canned music floating overhead and the cry of an irritated child somewhere to my left, I turned page after page, wanting to see Martha's handwriting, wanting to find one indication that she'd lived to anticipate fall, or Christmas, or 2002. But Martha had stopped writing in her planner.

I lost a dear friend to cancer last year. I said another good bye just three months later. But both those women knew Jesus. Both knew that death was nothing more than opening a door and seeing, finally, the face of the One they loved most. So despite missing them, my grief was laced with joy. I knew where they were, and Who they were with.

I couldn't rest on that assurance with Martha. I hadn't seen a single piece of evidence that she belonged to a group of fellow-sojourners or that she stopped at least once a week to turn her face heavenward. And no, a planner can't capture the full essence of a heart or indicate the thoughts a dying person directs toward God. But I saw no evidence. Not even a hint.

And so, standing there in that dingy thrift store, surrounded by strangers, I grieved another, and reminded myself that our mission field is really no further away than the next person we meet.
*    *    *    
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you ...
--1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping. --John 4:35 (TLB)

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11 Comment:

At 8/22/2005 9:20 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, your entry today made my heart beat faster. I had just finished writing about an "assignment," which reaped a similar discovery as your Martha.

I love used book stores, and am always scrounging around for personal comments written in the margins of old books. This post really grabbed my interest and my heart. Thank you!

At 8/22/2005 10:16 AM, Blogger violet had this to say ...

It grabbed mine too! (BTW just found your blog on Friday - through terry whalin's I think, and already I'm a fan!).

My good friend's mom just had surgery for a brain tumor - visciously malignant too - in the last couple of weeks. She had newly resigned from being nursery coordinator at our church after many years. It's like God said - end of that assignment, because you're going for the ride of your life! I know she's in good hands.

But last night, coming home from a meeting at our church (where the major encouragement was for us to reach out to our neighbors), and driving into our cul-de-sac, the thought came to me, 'Back to my mission field.' Your post confirms that thought.

At 8/22/2005 3:22 PM, Blogger YellowRose had this to say ...

Another heart grabbing post Shannon. This really made me think about how we must make our daily witness in everything we do. Even if it's in our daily planner, so someone, someday will know God's word. Blessings.

At 8/22/2005 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

So little time... Martha had so much of maintenance and fighting for survival... so little time for reflexion... I think of the stack of yellow legal pads my husband, left behind with his heart splashed over them with words... some I can't yet bring myself to read, and it's almost been 2 years since he stopped fighting and went home. A 12 1/2 year battle... not just one enemy but many, Heart failure, transplant, dieabetes, prostate cancer and finally Plasma Cell Leukemia ... Martha's battle was swift but hopefully merciful.. don't discount the place God had in it all.... are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and yet not one falls to the ground without the Father. Ye are of much more value....


At 8/22/2005 7:25 PM, Blogger frostykaiser had this to say ...

Thank you for a gentle reminder of why we should have a heart for the lost. Just as Jesus wept before bringing Lazarus from the grave, how much more He must weep for those that still take the wage of sin already paid.

At 8/23/2005 1:04 PM, Blogger steve had this to say ...

PLease Pray for little Rebekah RIGHT NOW. She is in surgery and not doing well at all.

God is good (and Big enough)

At 8/23/2005 3:15 PM, Blogger Jayleigh had this to say ...

What an amazing thing to have happened upon.

God is so great.

At 8/24/2005 8:07 PM, Blogger Angie Poole had this to say ...


Loved this post.

At 8/25/2005 1:28 PM, Blogger Curlyqfun had this to say ...

Shannon, thanks for letting your guard down and being able to show that you are real. Even though I seem to think you're superwoman. This post just goes to show you are like any normal wife and mother. YOU ROCK!

At 8/25/2005 2:49 PM, Blogger Paula had this to say ...

Thanks for the tears. I needed to read this post tonight. Today God has been reminding me that I need to have a burden for the lost. God bless you.


At 9/01/2005 8:51 PM, Anonymous Vickie Dianne had this to say ...

I don't believe I have ever heard anything more profound than when you said, "Our mission field is really no further away than the next person we meet." You have captured the words for the way I feel. And, though I fail often, for the way I try daily to live my life.

I'm going to keep these words close to heart!

Vickie5674@yahoo.com (in Missouri)


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