16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. - Galations 5:16-26
Today marks the second year after Rene passed from this earth. I remember that night like it was two minutes ago. It was a warm night and the family gathered around her to try and keep her comfortable for her last hours with us. There were not many smiles that night. The air felt heavy and tense with sadness. Sadness for Rene whose body looked so worn out and uncomfortable, sadness for each-other that she would be gone from our daily lives. Many of use had been up for the better part of four days by then, hoping that small acts would help her stay relatively pain-free for her last days. I remember watching the clock to be sure that I gave her medication precisely as described, her month/my grandma dabbing her lips with petroleum jelly to keep the cracks from getting too deep, my dad swabbing her mouth with ice to keep it cool and moist. I wanted to crawl in bed with her, but every touch seemed to hurt her, so I carefully laid my head next to her's so she could feel my breath and my heartbeat. I don't know if she was aware it was me, but I wanted her to feel the sense of life next to her so that she would feel warm and cared for.
Towards the very end, it seemed that everyone in the house could sense that she was ready to depart. The gentle hospice nurse had prepared us to be ready. Someone opened the doors, allowing Rene to feel the breezes from heaven on her skin (a feeling that is truly a gift, upon reflection). Others bowed their heads in prayer while one or two seemed to hum a song. Someone lashed out in anger and had to run off and hide, away from the stress of the moment. I broke away, having to get out into the air and take a breath. I walked outside and down the driveway. I found a cool spot in a dark corner and buried my hands in my lap, sobbing. I called my husband to cry together. It was then that I felt a cool breeze, which was followed by someone gathering my to come inside. She was gone from her body, much like the way she was born to it. In a moment. I imagined her lifting away from her body, from her room. I know she was ready, more than ready. I don't even picture her looking back because she knew where she was going and that there was nothing left of her body to support her amazing spirit. I lay next to her body, knowing that I could no longer hurt her, but somehow finding comfort in holding her. I knew her spirit was gone, but I laid there for what could have been minutes but what felt like an hour.
It was late then, and we were all numb. Numb from loss, numb to ourselves and each other. We are still numb I think. It has been two years, but it felt like two minutes ago. We are changed now, forever. Be it grief or sadness, be it that we lost the glue that help us together. We are cracked like an old tea cup that cannot be repaired. We added more grief upon grief, and the layers are too many to count. How did one women hold so many people together in that way? How were we so fragile that we cracked without her?
I am reminded today of the fruits of the spirit. Why are we given them as a guide? Because they are the glue that we must continue to use to keep us together. The sins of the flesh are powerful. Anger, grief-stricken behavior. It makes us human. We are lovely for being human. It is when we choose to be godly, when we choose forgiveness over grudge, when we choose love over hate or even laziness, when we choose humility over ambition, that we are closer to God. Closer to that breeze that carried Rene away that warm night two years ago. I know I fail every day at this, and I am disappointed when I do. But I keep Rene's picture in my kitchen as a reminder to choose these fruits of my spirit, when I am tempted to behave poorly. I remind my children to make "good choices", to have a "kind heart", to "try their best", because this is what Christ would have us do. This is what Rene knew, and what she taught us all. She was humble to know that she would always fall short, as would all humankind. She was wise enough to know that we should keep trying and that we are forgiven. We are forgiven. We forgive.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I will go on. I choose to. I will fail every day, and I will succeed every day. I am reminded to be humble, to love. The spread this to my children so that they will love. Rene is my compass, my reminder. Her memory keeps me honest, helps me right my wrongs, and move forward. I cannot go around life, I must go through it. That is the gift after all.
I love you Rene.