It's a milestone amount of time. We celebrate 5th wedding anniversaries, and 5th birthday, and a person is officially considered cancer free if they are healthy for 5 years.
My sister has been in heaven for 5 years today.
Its strange, the way this anniversary, and the preparation for it, has affected me. It's different than the past years. My heart seemed to know it was a milestone.
All the hard memories have still flooded back, as they do every year.
The sounds of my children weeping in the living room, and remembering that I couldn't even go comfort them because my own grief would've scared them, so I sat in the hall, in the floor, trying to silence my sobs with my hands...
The pain has become more bearable as the years have passed, and while I understand that is inevitable with the passage of time...it makes me sad too. Because somehow it feels like, if I don't ache with every breath, that I love her less...or something. I know that's ridiculous, but that's only one of many ridiculous truths about grieving.
My life has changed in the last 5 years. But there are many things that are still the same.
I was wandering through the house last night, turning off lights and picking up toys and locking doors, and I had a sudden thought.
If Joy were alive today, would she be able to see all that has changed? Besides the new paint in the dining room and the fact that my children are half grown?
Would she be able to look at my face, look at my life, and see how much different I am now, since she died?
Because I am. I'm changed forever.
Some ways I wish I could undo. Like how fast I freak out when someone I know goes to the hospital, for any reason. I immediately start shaking and wondering what might happen.
But there are good things too. Things that altered my faith, and my perspective on life, in the last 5 years.
I pray differently now. I still believe that God does miracles, and when someone is sick, I pray for their healing. BUT, mostly I pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit to be felt. Because that is what helped me to survive when the miracle I asked for turned out to be different than God's plan.
I view my time differently. I'm more careful and intentional about moments with my kids, and my brother and sisters, and everyone around me. Because time...it's so precious. Our every moment is ordained by God, and all our days are numbered. And who are we to say how many days and moments we will have on this earth? And I want to remember that I didn't waste my moments with the people I love most.
I encourage people differently. This week I was speaking with someone who is in a hard, scary emotional place. I reached out my hands, and grasped hers, and I said "He is with you." And I hope that she could see, in my eyes, that they weren't just words I was saying. I knew them to be truth.
I say I love you every time I say goodbye to my friends and family. Because what if its the last time I get to say it? You can never say, or hear, 'I love you' too many times.
I have lived through a storm, and I have found that He is still here with me, and it changes me, for the better, every day.
This morning I woke before 5 a.m. Which is ironic, since that's what time I woke on this day 5 years ago. Or...probably not ironic. Because I woke with another memory in my mind, and I fell certain it was the Lord.
Around 4 a.m. on this day, 5 years ago, God gave me a vision.
Of a hospital room on the other side of the world, and a girl in a bed.
But she, her spirit, her real self, wasn't in the bed.
She was standing up, in the empty room, smiling and looking around her.
Because in the room I could SEE the presence of the Lord. And I could hear every prayer being prayed by thousands of people all around the earth, and the room was filled with the voices of all who loved that girl...
And in my vision, she looked at me, her face beaming.
And I looked at her, and I smiled back.
And I said, "I love you, Joy."
Today is the 5th anniversary of the first vision I ever had.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the final time I told my sister I love her on this earth...because I know she heard me.
Yes, 5 years changes many, many things. But some things remain the same. We will miss her...always. We will ache on this day...always. But we will continue to let it change us into people who are more like the Lord...because that would be her challenge to us, if she could call us from heaven and give us pointers on living for the sake of the kingdom.
"Sing hosanna," she would tell us. "And don't blink. Until the whole world hears."
Happy 5 years in heaven, Joyful. I love you.