Saturday, February 14, 2009
Cafe Chat posed a question for answering today: Tell of one specific time in your Christian walk that you were overwhelmed with God’s love for you.
I had to think for just a second when the answer came to me. It's not the only time I've felt this way, but it might be the first time I consciously realized the fullness of God's love.
Twenty-four years ago, on a late January night, my older sister was driving home from work as a nurse. In the flash of an eye, her life was changed forever by a drunk driver. For six months, she battled between life and death as she lay in a coma, her skull crushed, brain stem damaged. She lived in Florida, my parents lived in Maine. My father flew immediately to West Palm Beach, arriving in the wee hours of the morning to the ICU. It was evident that the doctors, nurses and the priest had given her up for dead. Everything changed when Dad arrived. Then began their unease when they learned what they were reckoning with in the form of a father on a mission. Dad was livid and everyone within earshot knew it. Three months later, Dad had Suzanne flown back to New England by air ambulance so she would be close to home. For twenty-four years, my father cared for this girl. His love and care of her never wavered. It took a full decade for him to accept that she would never walk and talk again, but this never undermined the care he insisted she receive.
Before I go on, I must explain a little bit about my dad. He was a towering man with a booming voice. He had a successful career as a commanding officer in the U.S. Army. We followed rules at our house and we six kids were expected to toe the mark. We did not run around in our underwear.
Dad, second from left.
Ladies did "not drink beer from bottles" and you were expected to respect your elders. It sounds much fiercer than it was, I just want to give you an idea of a man who, on the surface, did not seem like a warm fuzzy. I was eighteen before I remember hearing my father actually tell me that he loved me.
One beautiful, breezy, late summer afternoon, I had the great honor of witnessing one of the most tender moments of my life. I had gone with my dad to visit Suzanne. She'd come out of her coma a few weeks before. Dad wheeled Suzanne outside to enjoy the sunshine. I watched as my father lovingly tended to her as he sat facing her. He filed her fingernails as he spoke tenderly to her, calling her 'Little Girl'. My sister was 36 y.o. and my father was calling her "Little Girl". They looked into each other's eyes as he spoke. Have you ever watched love electrically pass between the eyes of two people? This is what I witnessed. I could not speak, I could only observe. I felt suspended in air looking down on this scene. I then watched as my father carefully painted Sue's fingernails. My father, the Colonel, was painting my sister's fingernails. Gently, tenderly, he swept the brush across her nails. Tears streamed down my face. My eyes water at the memory. It was at this moment I felt the enormity and fullness of God's love. I saw Jesus, and he was painting Suzanne's fingernails.
I would continue to feel this fullness throughout the long years my father cared for my sister. What an example of fatherly love my own father exhibited. There is much to Suzanne's story, before and after the accident. She made choices that would cause my parents to rescue her on several occasions. My father and she battled frequently, each convinced that their own stance was right. Theirs was a love-hate relationship of major proportions. She was the lost sheep my father would go and seek. But all the battles didn't matter at Sue's life-changing moment. Nothing mattered but Suzanne's care and well-being. It was this relationship which brought understanding of God's love to me.
I know that Jesus would paint my fingernails, too, if I could not paint them for myself.