My mother has had a rare and unforgettable opportunity in comparison to that of most other public school teachers. She had the opportunity to teach for many years at an elementary school unlike any I have ever seen. The teachers at this school were like a band of sisters, living life together both inside and outside of the classrooms. The majority of them were believers, making that bond of unity all the more strong. I personally, by extension of my mom, was blessed to know them as well. I witnessed friendships among women that will last a lifetime, and I was encouraged as a young woman by the fervent prayer support among them.
It was through these friendships and various connections that my mother and I were asked to sing in a wedding during the winter of 1998. I was a junior in high school, and the niece of my mom's principal at her school was getting married. My mom told the family that we would be more than happy to sing at the ceremony, and I still remember that intimate night in the small chapel where this sweet couple stated their vows to one another and entered into the covenant of marriage.
Almost ten years later, the Kaylor family is in the midst of a journey they would have never imagined for themselves. Jessica and Jake have been blessed with three beautiful daughters (two are in the picture above), and their extended family and friends have grown even more important and dear to them in recent years. In the spring of 2005, Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer. It would be an understatement to simply say that the journey from then until now has been a rollercoaster. There were times early on when her body seemed free and clear, and then there were times when it seemed as if every inch of her body was taken over by this aggressive cancer. My mom has continued sending me updates these past three years, and some of the emails have been more hopeful than others. One thing has remained constant through the long and painful process - this family's faith in the Lord of all creation has been steadfast. I can only imagine how much Jessica and Jake's faith in Christ will have a lasting impact on those precious girls. I only met Jessica and Jake that weekend of their wedding many years ago, but I have still been encouraged as I have read the updates on how they are doing in the midst of the pain and seemingly endless struggle.
The email I received from my mom yesterday made my heart sink as I read the words over and over to myself. Yesterday was Jessica's last day. She had been at home with hospice care for many days with the family understanding that this day was at hand. Jake was notified by Jessica's nurse in the early hours of the morning yesterday that the moment would soon come. Jessica was surrounded by her precious family as she breathed her last and entered into that eternal rest. Yesterday was also their middle daughter's 7th birthday, and the family chose to celebrate even in the midst of the sorrow, showing their thanks to the Lord and celebrating the life He gives.
The believer's perspective on life and death is so foreign to that of the world (or should be). How can we possibly rejoice when faced with death and praise when someone has been taken from us? Do we see it as someone being taken from us, or do we view it as someone getting to see Christ before we do? We are all impacted in unique ways by death, depending on who we are and also on the one who as touched our lives and is passing. These were some of the thoughts running through my mind as we mourned the passing of my grandmother four years ago, and these thoughts returned yesterday as I read about Jessica's passing. For Christians who are approaching death, there is a strange combination of deep sorrow and peace. Our perspective on life and death should be foreign to those in the world because we have hope in the only One who lavishes peace on those whom He calls His own. We have hope because of that moment when He lavished His saving grace on us, we have hope for today as He is continually purifying us even when the process is seemingly unbearable, and we have hope for the day to come. We have hope because He promised us that future, that glorious day when we will finally see Him for whom we have so longed.
In the quiet moments of reflection and prayer for the Kaylor family yesterday, the song came to mind that my mom and I sang at Jessica and Jake's wedding almost ten years ago...
All I once held dear built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
(Chorus)Knowing you, Jesus knowing You
There is no greater thing
You're my all you're my rest
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord
Now my heart's desire is to know You more
To be found in You, and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in your suffering
To become like You in Your death my Lord
So with You to live and never die
May you be encouraged by the Kaylors' journey on their blog: www.jessicakaylor.blogspot.com