I knew Rachel in passing. She was that gorgeous, thin, well-dressed, high-energy mom that turned the heads of other moms and children alike. She taught my daughter Gianna at our homeschool co-op. She chatted about homeschooling and shopping and couponing in the hallways. She served her family and church. She was a dear friend to so many of my friends. She was full of life and love.
And then I heard she was sick. Her sister Betty, a friend of my youth, let me know Rachel had cancer. Rachel did all the recommended treatments. To an outsider, she was so brave and strong. She kept homeschooling her two young boys. Her health started to improve but then in December the cancer returned. She was told it was terminal. She had less than a year to live.
I saw her at our co-op each week. I admit that I stared at her from across the room. How could she be dying? She looked so healthy, so full of life. She came to co-op each week, helped teach classes, and loved on her boys and friends. How could such a woman be dying? She was always smiling, always so hopeful, and she acted so blessed.
I asked my children to pray hard for her. I told them about her cancer, about the possible outcome. My 5 year old son Charlie remarked, “she must be really brave and strong. Mommy, are you that brave and strong.” “I don’t know,” I responded, “We need to pray for her.”
Rachel was so young, the mom of two young boys. She was dying and yet she kept on living life. What else was she to do? At some point in the spring I didn’t see her again. She shared her pain on facebook and her sister started a blog. I read their words and I prayed. Each day she grew sicker. Rachel, her sister Betty, and other close family members continued to share Rachel’s journey with our entire community. Rachel wanted her life to be a witness to us all, to serve Christ through her last breaths. As her body slowly wasted away to nothing, she suffered greatly, and she served Him well.
Yesterday I learned she took her last breath. While I fully expected this news, it was jarring.
Although I didn’t know her well, for months now, her life has never been far from my thoughts and prayers. Rachel made me think about life, about death, about love, and about how I ought to be living.
As I go through my day I am often very distracted by the little things–the undone laundry, unfinished schoolwork, a child who has fallen and needs comforting–all good and necessary parts of my job. And while life is about all these little things, it is a great grace when we can accomplish the little tasks with great care and love, but at the same time keep the big picture in mind. We are, after all, running a race, and whether we like it or not, death and eternal life is the finish line.
Rachel has completed her race, and she ran hard until the end. “I have fought the good fight, I have run the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 And I pray that she is now in the presence of Jesus, hearing him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”