I. Born Again on the Same Day
Debbie and I weren't twins, but most days it certainly seemed like it. Even though she was older by six years and sixteen days, I can't imagine what her life was like before there was wonderful me. We did everything together when we were young and when we were old. We were best friends and lived next door to each other as adults.
On November 8, 1970, without a single family member present, while the choir sang "Victory in Jesus," my sister wearing a light blue and white polyester dress with a pleated skirt with a white bow on the shoulder, and I, wearing a light blue and white polyester high waisted straight dress with a big white buckle on the front, were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, together, by Brother Milton Worthington at Tupelo Free Will Baptist Church.
Now, not to start any religious debate, but even though it wasn't "In Jesus Name," Jesus was definitely there and we definitely basked in his love and His victory which He achieved centuries before by conquering death, hell, and the grave. This is what our baptism was a representation of as we went down in a watery grave and rose to a marvelous new life.
I believe we both joined the family of God that day and went from being sisters to sister sisters if that makes any sense to you. It makes sense to me. As connected as we were before, this brought us even closer because even though we weren't born into this world at the same time, we were born again into the Kingdom of God at the same time.
II. Life - Make the Most of It
Have you ever met someone who could make a celebration out of anything? Debbie could. She loved the simplest things in life. I remember one particular time when what would normally have been a mundane trip to Wal-Mart became a party. During her long eleven-year battle with breast cancer, Debbie went into remission for a short while, but due to all her other health problems, she still couldn't do a lot. Regardless, she kept the best attitude despite her many health issues. I miss her smile. I miss her laughter. I miss her sweet spirit.
Debbie had hereditary coproporphyria, a rare blood disease, long before she had breast cancer. Plus, all the chemo she had been through for years left her with neuropathy in both feet. She couldn't drive herself anymore. Therefore, a trip anywhere was a party.
In Wal-Mart, she, for the first time got into the driver's seat of a motorized cart. Debbie never was great at driving an automobile, and alas, she didn't fair to well with the cart either. As she attempted to maneuver up and down aisles attempting to miss displays for about two hours, we giggled and laughed literally like two little girls till tears rolled down our faces.
Wherever you are in life, you can make the best of it. Make a party out of it. Make the time to spend time with your loved ones and even act like a kid every once in a while. The most mundane tasks are better when done with someone you love. Life is very short. Enjoy it.
Philippians 4:11 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Isaiah 29:19 - The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD.
III. What Would You Do?
My sister went into the hospital with her metastatic breast cancer for the last time September 3, 2015. On September 18th she, myself, and her husband were told by her doctors, they could do nothing else. They could not keep her in the regular hospital room any longer. She could either go to Hospice there at the hospital, choose a different hospice, or go home with home hospice care for her last days. Of all the hard days we had experienced those past 15 days, the past 11 years, that day was the first hard day of Debbie's last hard days.
Debbie listened and asked questions, coherent, understanding the answers to her questions. Her husband reassured her that they didn't have to make the decision that very moment and they would talk about it when he came back up after work that night. He worked at the hospital second shift. I stayed with her while he worked each day.
As Terry kissed her, held back tears, and walked out the door, Debbie looked at me and asked, "Judy, what would you do. I mean what do you think I should do?"
A thousand words ran through my mind in a split second, which seemed like an eternity. But none of the words seemed to be the right words. Finally, I, holding back a thousand tears, said, "I would want to go home I think, but that's me. It is your decision to make. I can't make it for you. This is hard, but you are strong. I love you so much."
Then I sat on the bed with her, holding her hand until she fell back to sleep. I simply prayed, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." No other words would come.
I know Jesus was there holding both our hands that day. I could feel His love. I could feel His peace.
Isaiah 41:13 - For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
IV. Sing a New Song
On Sunday, September 20th, 2015, about 4 PM, Debbie moved down the hall to NMMC Hospice wing. She had put it off as long as possible but she and her husband decided this was the best choice for her. When she first got there she was still "at herself" as the old folks say. She looked around at the room and said, "This looks ok." Family visited for the first few days and she interacted with them.
The Hospice staff soon began the pain patches and Debbie slept more and more. But on that first Wednesday in Hospice, Debbie was wide awake when I walked in. She said, "Judy, let's sing." To quote an old song favorite of Debbie's, "We sang up ever' song that driver knew."
We sang rock - "I Wanna' Hold Your Hand." We sang country - "Dixieland Delight." We sang Christmas songs in September - "Silver Bells" (her favorite.) We sang hymns - "Jesus Loves Me," "Victory in Jesus," "Blessed Assurance," "It Will Be Worth it All." Finally, Debbie was tired and ready for rest. I read aloud to her of miracles in The Book of Matthew. She fell asleep but I continued to read aloud.
Later that night, her husband came in. With Terry holding her left hand and me her right, Debbie began to cry out to Jesus. We prayed for the Lord to look down on her and give her His peace and take the pain from her. She squeezed my hand so tightly and cried out, "I love you, Jesus! Jesus, You love me. Thank you Thank you Thank you! JESUS, JESUS Victory!"
Tears rolled down our faces. I fell to my knees. God's glory filled the room. I believe Debbie got a glimpse of Heaven. There was peace. We needed that peace, for the next morning doctors told us, Debbie, at best only had a few more days.
Psalms 98:1 - O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.
V. See You Later
The week of October 5th, 2015 I made the hard decision to return to work. I had used up all vacation, sick leave, and personal time off to stay with Debbie for a month. The few days the doctors gave were not what God or Debbie had in mind. Her will to live was strong. God obliged and let her hang out with us on earth a little longer than expected.
The last week was really hard. Debbie talked out of her head when she did talk. She hemorrhaged twice and being in Hospice care they could not give her any blood. She had quit eating a couple of weeks before and finally quit even taking a sip of water. And of course, the staff could not intervene with any IV nutrition.
I continued to go up every evening when I got off work so that Terry could go to work for his evening shift. On Tuesday evening I arrived and Terry bent down and kissed Debbie good-bye like he always did. Debbie opened her eyes and very much herself said, “See you later.” Those were the last words I ever heard her speak.
On the following Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2015 with me at work, and Terry by her side, Debbie went on to Heaven. Terry called me at 10:15 and said, “Judy, Debbie has stopped breathing.” He didn’t say she had died or passed. It seemed like such a peaceful way to break the news that my sister had gone home.
I believe when Debbie said those three little words the evening before she already had seen Heaven’s Gate and was on her way in. She knew this was not the end and we will get to be together again one day. No one can be good enough to get in Heaven (there is none righteous, no not one.) The Bible says it is only by our being washed in the shed blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ that we can enter in. But if it were based on goodness Debbie would have certainly been one of the best candidates for Heaven.
I will cherish my memories of my sister who could have passed for my twin. But I will always feel like part of me is missing. Debbie, one day we will sing together again. We will laugh together again. Yes, one sweet day we’ll sing up there the song of victory. See you later!