Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kathy and The Weaver and His Tapistry

A year ago last spring I wrote this post about a dear friend who passed away. While looking for something to share on this Sunday with you, I ran across this and thought it had some important points to ponder and reflect upon. There are lessons to be taken away for all of us from people like Kathy Sandoval.

March 2010:

Yesterday was the most beautiful spring day. As we listened to the little birds chirping and enjoyed flowers outside, our thoughts were turned to a lady in our church who died last Sunday. Jim and I were going to be helping in the kitchen to serve lunch to the family members who had traveled from as far away as France to come to her service.

Kathy was 61 and had been bedridden with MS for a little over 30 years. She worked in a nursing home years ago and fell in love with a man named John who was a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury. She took him home and cared for him after they were married. They eventually had three children.

When Kathy's youngest was around 18 months old, Kathy was diagnosed with MS. Within a few years she could no longer take care of her children. Her brother who lived in Alaska adopted their three kids. They grew up hundreds of miles away from their parents and saw them rarely. She and her husband shared a room at the convalescent home until his death. For the last 20 years she has lived alone in a bed since her husband died, basically just waiting to be taken home.
I met Kathy about 7 years ago when she moved into our town. She was angry for having had to move due to finances, as she had left a wonderful ward full of people that knew her and John and their kids. They had loved her and cared for her.

It was my job to try to help that happen in her new church family. Kathy lived a miserable existence physically; one most of us cannot even imagine. She could not move anything but her head from side to side. She could not wipe away her own tears, feed herself, partake of the Sacrament on her own, hold a book, dial a phone number...all she could do was breathe and talk.

I lost a lot of sleep over Kathy. My own mother was ill at the time and in a different convalescent home, and I just didn't have a clue how to help Kathy. She missed her friends so desperately and she didn't know me at all. We were both struggling. Anything that I had ever known to comfort someone did not work with Kathy. I spent hours just wiping away her tears. I organized visits from others, and slowly the service and love grew for her and she began to allow others in. I have never felt so inadequate in my entire life to help another person.

Her faith in the Lord was strong but she had questions no one could answer...a lot a 'whys' I sure didn't have adequate answers for. You could not just chime in with something trite when she asked you why this happened to her, her kids, etc. We shared a lot of very silent moments together. I thought about her constantly wondering how I could help. Finally the Lord answered my prayers in this way. "Bonnie, you cannot fix it, just love her."

So I did...and I stopped worrying about what to say and do and just loved her. I bought her a book from one of her favorite, Christian authors, Neal A. Maxwell. I asked various ward members to read to her and she loved that. Jim thought maybe she would like to be a visiting teacher so she could serve too. We got that going. People started having her over every Sunday on a rotation basis and she started to feel a part of our ward... finally. Every week that she was able, she got a ride to church. Kathy didn't own much but she did have her own van with a lift for her wheelchair. Many people learned to operate it and get her out of the home as much as possible. They were amazing! I had my own mom to care for so I had to leave a lot of it to everyone else.

When someone would die, Kathy would always cry. Tears for them and tears for herself. She longed to be released from the body that held her captive. She would say, "When I for me!" A lot of people have been dancing for Kathy lately.

Yesterday was a beautiful celebration of her courage and fortitude as she dealt as best she could with her terrible circumstances. Kathy taught everyone well. She taught us to endure to the end no matter what, she taught us not to complain and to be thankful. She taught everyone that knew her how to minimize the whining about their own small troubles. Kathy was amazing. Kathy was real, she didn't try to hide her pain and frustration, her life was unbearably hard. She shared that. Others were blessed. Kathy will be missed and never ever forgotten.

Through a mutual friend, Elder Maxwell was made aware of Kathy's situation and and he wrote her a letter that included this. I thought it was beautiful and was happy we got a copy of it in church today. I am sure we can all find application in our own lives someplace.

"My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent, and shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful Weaver's hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned."

Kathy on the left with our good friend, Lanette.
May She Rest In Peace... while moving around freely at last!

When you have the privilege of knowing someone like Kathy, who truly struggled every minute of her last 20+ years, you wonder and marvel that we could ever complain about anything don't you? What a blessing she was to all who knew her and hopefully to those who just read of her story as well. I cannot help but think about the hymn, "Count Your Many Blessings"...Name them one by one... when I think of her! Even in her darkest hours she did not lose her faith. She questioned, but she always believed in a better, eternal life and a Father in Heaven and Savior that loved her. She was an outstanding example of enduring to the end. Sure miss that sweet lady in my life and think of her often when I am whining about something that is nothing. She helps me keep an eternal perspective....I hope she never stops dancing!


Sister Susie said...

Back in 1983, I worked in a home for people who could not care for themselves. It was quite some distance from where I lived. I'll never forget Bonnie. She was about 40 years old. She had had cerebral palsy from very young. She was so happy when I visited and spent time with her. Her body was so contorted and such spastic movement, even her arms and legs at times had to be secured. I one day saw that she was ucomfortable and asked if she wanted me to release her arms. She couldn't talk except for some noises. Her eyes looked so serious quickly darting from her arm to me and back again. I mistook it for yes. I no sooner released her arm and a spasm had her arm whack me right across the face! Her eyes showed she was so sorry as noises from her mouth conveyed her same message! It hurt, but I started laughing and I'll never forget the smile on her face from ear to ear and the noise from her "speech" became that of a long sighing laugh! I soon got into the education system and heard that she had passed away before I could get back over to see her again. Even to this day, I hope she didn't think I had forgotten her.
I pray the LORD's greatest rewards to those who have to suffer so much! I know what you mean when I go to "complain" about something. I become so humbled before my LORD, asking forgiveness because I am so blessed!
Love to you and yours,