“Don’t wish it away.”
I stood there with tears in my eyes and nodded my head. I had no words. I am rarely speechless, but this time was an exception. She grabbed my hand and looked me deep in the eyes. She had my full attention. Her gaze held me and went straight to my soul. I had to honor her request, but how do you get to a place where you can ever truly live those words out? I wasn’t there yet.
“Christi, if you wished this away from me, wished it never happened, then all the blessings that have come linked to this would be gone too. I never want to be the person I was before this all began. I never want to go back to a shallow life. I am so close to Him right now, no matter where He leads, no matter what His answers are in all this, I want to walk through this side by side with Him. He has His reasons. I don’t have to like all of them right now, but I do want to follow through on this.”
I let the tears slip down my cheeks. They came faster and faster and soon I couldn’t even see the beautiful face before me, with new curls of hair just starting to grow back in. She didn’t tell me not to cry and so I went ahead unashamed. Then SHE hugged ME to comfort my distress and pain!
Ah, Cheri. I would honor your request in the days to follow but I would still find it hard to understand for a very long time. Cheri told me the cancer was back. This time it was back with an attitude. I was heartbroken and sick.
I drove home that day and promptly got mad at God. I cried, I railed, I punched a few pillows. Then, I heard her sweet words and saw those eyes. “Don’t wish it away from me. You are wishing away the blessings too.” How could I deny her the blessings?
This is the one life lesson that Cheri taught me that has completely changed my life.
For every trial, every test, every tragedy, every illness; there is a purpose and a plan in it. No, God does not go around creating tragedy, illness, and pain to showcase his power. But He does use EVERYTHING. For every bad thing, God can bring a blessing. It is all about how you see things, how you choose to live life.
Later, toward the end, I came and sat with her. I was there just to keep her company, to be a friend. I frankly am sure she did way more for me than I ever did for her. I think I can safely say that those of us who came to be with Cheri in the last days received way more than we ever gave.
The last time I saw her, she lay in her bed, too sick to move. I knelt at her bedside and took her hand. I had no words. I wanted to say so much, but I just had no idea how to speak my heart. It was full and breaking. My voice cracked and all I could manage is that I was praying for her, for peace and comfort. Her eyes opened just a bit so I could see those gleaming windows to the soul. She looked deeply and said to me, “I pray for you daily, Christi. For you and Derek and the kids. Keep strong, honey.” I just bawled. SHE was praying for ME? For MY family?
I have never met a soul like Cheri. She was so very young to be at the end of life, but she was as wise and as selfless as someone who’d lived at least four decades longer.
The day of the funeral the tiny country church was packed to overflowing. I sat in one of the only seats left. All around the walls of the church people stood. It was wall to wall people, all who were touched by this amazing woman. Inspired just by how she lived her day-to-day life. It wasn’t even so much what she did as a teacher and administrator, it was the grace she lived her life with. It was the integrity of it. The more I looked around the more I knew that God was again doing what she said He would. He was bringing blessings in the midst of pain. He was showing His glory and strength, and triumph over death.
Cheri was not gone. NO! She was where we all strive to be, beside her Savior, face to face. So we celebrated, even through tears, her life, her amazing insight, and her ministry to all those around her.
From that day on this changed who I was and who I wanted to be. I did not want to do anything in particular, no special job. But I did want to be someone who did everything with her whole heart and soul. I wanted to live each day as if it really counted. Everyday needed to count for HIM. And when people looked at me, more than anything, I wanted them to see Jesus and His grace.
So I began changing dirty diapers for God, cooking and cleaning for God, and trying to live each day, as God brought it, for Him. I strove to have the grace and courage to tackle trials head on, and to see His purpose in those times when I was tempted to just wish it all away. And truly, I am a better person for the lesson. Would I have learned this lesson without Cheri? Maybe. But I am absolutely positive it would not have been soon, or with such intensity and life changing power.
Thank you, Cheri, for your courage, strength, for speaking truth, and sharing wisdom that was truly beyond your years. I will forever be changed by the way you lived out the end of your life with amazing grace and courage.
I heard a quote recently, and I thought of Cheri… “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” -John Wayne.
She never said she wasn’t scared. But she did say she would choose to walk it out rather than not. And that, that my friends, is something I still strive to be able to say and walk out in my own life. Thank you Cheri dear!
I love and miss you dearly.
(This blog was written several years ago in honor of my dear friend Cheri Ferber. If you never knew her, you truly missed meeting one of the most blessed women I have ever been graced with knowing. While I face nothing like she did, it is my hope that any blessing in disguise that God chooses to put into my path, that I can rise to the occasion with as much grace and dignity as she did.)