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Last week, a member of our church family passed away. I only had the opportunity to meet Lynda once, and that one time I met her she was unable to speak to me. All we could do was pray with one another. When I was asked to have the honor of presiding over her funeral, I knew I wanted to make sure her life was honored well. After speaking with her husband, I also asked for names and phone numbers of some of her closest friends and family. Right before I left, her husband said, "Oh, there's one more person you need to know about! Her name is Taniya. She also had the same cancer as Lynda and Lynda helped her out and was close with her." He gave me her number and said to call her for the whole story.
When I spoke with Taniya on the phone, I had no clue what I was in for! She explained to me how the two met on Facebook in a bladder cancer survivor group. They both had the same, rare and intense form of bladder cancer and Taniya's had returned. Taniya was looking to reach out to someone and she found Lynda. She had seen Lynda's posts in the group and noticed they were always uplifting and encouraging and that she was in remission. She sent her a message on Facebook. Lynda's reply to her was, "I'm not much of a writer, I'm more of a talker." They exchanged phone numbers and Lynda gave her a call. As they talked, Lynda told her she needed a second opinion about her cancer returning. So Taniya made an appointment at MD Anderson in Houston, bought plane tickets to fly from her home state of Georgia to Texas, and planned to get her second opinion based solely on conversations with Lynda, a complete stranger. Upon arriving at MD Anderson, Lynda met up with them and showed them around the hospital. Taniya said that Lynda must have spent seven hours with her that day! After that visit, they remained in touch and continued to encourage one another until Lynda passed away.
As she told this story to me, Taniya reflected, "I’ve never met someone who has had such an impact on me in a short amount of time. Kindness like that, genuineness like that, you don’t see that anymore. More than kindness, she gave me hope. If I can beat this cancer, I will reach out to others like Lynda did to me. If I can encourage someone half as much as Lynda encouraged me, I will have done something good. If she was this kind to me, a complete stranger, someone she didn’t even know…I can’t imagine how good she was to all those who were not strangers to her."
Listening to Taniya's and Lynda's story, I had chills and held back tears. This was beyond just kindness and showing God's love...this was the true definition of the Hebrew word hesed. Hesed is a word that is hard to define in English, but it is often translated as loving kindness. It is a deep love, mercy, and grace that God has for God's people. Even when the Jewish people messed up, or were sent in exile, or complained to God, God continually showed hesed to them. It's an unfailing, unending love. And it was a love that was found in this woman who I only met once, who strongly held my hand as we prayed together just a week before she died.
Her story inspired me and made me begin to reflect on how I treat others. Do I show that save loving kindness that God gives to me with other people as freely as Lynda did? Would I ever have the courage to step out in faith and not just speak to someone I have never met, but invite them to my state and commit to spending seven hours with them in their time of need? What kind of a relationship do I need to build with God to have that type of hesed that is so rarely seen in this world?
Learning about Lynda's life last week helped me realize that life is more than being a good person, a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister, etc. Life is really and truly about showing the same loving kindness that God has given freely to me with everyone that I meet. It's more than just waving and saying hello. It's genuinely seeking to help others, to forgive them in a rude first-time encounter, and pray with those who are reaching out and asking for prayers. We only have a short period of time on this earth, but we are all called to live like Christ while we are here. Let's make the most of it and help everyone learn, discover, and truly experience the indescribable hesed of our God.