Two thousand miles from Arkansas, living on the streets in California, a middle-aged woman lost her battle for a shopping cart and stepped into the street where she died after being struck by a passing car. The story probably didn’t make the front page of the local paper or the five o’clock broadcast news. Just another hopeless, homeless woman come to no good end… people passing by just shake their heads and move on.
But this woman was more than a face among the masses that others try hard not to look at in the eye. This woman had a home and a family. This woman had a mother whose heart never quit loving and never quit hoping her daughter would one day show up… a mother who waited for word and worried what that word would be… this woman’s life meant something to somebody!
I have to be honest, I haven’t really thought of her in a couple of months. We were already adults when her mother married my brother. Around the same age we both had young sons and penchant for pot and tough men. Two girls rebellious and walking on the wild side that, once clean and sober, turned out to be the seedy underbelly of a respectable society.
The last time I saw her she had been out of rehab a couple of months and was on vacation with the family in some state park. I’d gone up there with Mom, Dad, and my little brother and sister for a day. When the boys, younger than two at the time, were down for a nap she rented a paddle boat and we took off to get away from the “little kids.” As we neared the middle of the lake she fired up a joint. I can’t remember the exact conversation but I know we talked of getting out from under our parents roof…the rules there were suffocating and we were treated like children. We talked of what we’d like to do with our lives and the men that were in them at the time.
I married, she married and both experienced everything that marriage was NOT supposed to be and in the horrid reality of our own life choices we lost touch. I’d heard bits and pieces of her life as I was grappling with my own. Fights won and lost, the loss of custody of her three children, jail…then she was gone…disappeared without a trace.
My life moved forward, divorce… military… college… new life in Christ… new marriage… motherhood… career… Sunday school teacher… grandmother… but I never heard news of her again. She disappeared before I got my life together… before I could share my good news… before I could tell her of our Savior and the change that is made in one’s life when we accept Him…
This week her mother finally found out where she was… tragically too late to do any more than what has already been done. Through my mother’s sobs came the words, “What makes one person turn their life around and the other not? Surely it is more than the love of family because she was fiercely loved. Can it be more than hope and prayers begging God to reach out and snatch her from the calamity that is life succumbed to addiction? Is it more than the heartache experienced by her loved ones in the wake of her decisions… more than rehab and interventions?”
Yes, Mom, it’s more than that. While we sit and pray and twist our hands calling out to God for safety, for a change of mind, a change of habit, a change of life… she had to be the one who reached out and took hold of His hand. She simply chose not to.
My heart is in agony today for my dear sister-in-law, my brother and the rest of the family. I am saddened by the fact that while I know she had been exposed to the Love of God, she disappeared before I could personally plant any seeds of His love and I pray that along the path of her short life she experienced bits and pieces of happiness.