December 16 is my sister’s birthday. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it in the midst of all the Christmas preparations. My family(My dad, sister and her family)got together to exchange gifts since my sister’s family will be out of town on Christmas. My sister whispered to me, “its Barb’s birthday you know. I wonder if dad’s thinking about it.” See I have 2 sisters. One living and the other, Barb, who is not. Saturday was her birthday and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t mark the calendar or anticipate its arrival. She passed away in 1997–10 years almost to the day after my mom did. Just wondering why the grief has seemed to settle. It has been almost 9 years now. I guess you move on but shouldn’t these milestone dates be in the forefront of your mind? Weird. Following is a piece I wrote way back when in case you’d like the specs. I had written it for a church (Ginger Creek Comm Church) newsletter…

On September 30, 1997, I received a phone call at 3 a.m. that I knew would eventually come. It was my father telling me my 38-year old sister Barb, had passed away just minutes before. Barb was suffering from complications of a lifetime with Diabetes. At the time she died, she was in need of a kidney and pancreas transplant, open heart surgery, and 3 or 4 other operations which could not be done because her heart had become so weak. Barb’s heart had a more pressing need–salvation.

Barb was an instrumental figure in my life. Eight and a half years my senior, she took on a parenting role to me. My mother was also diabetic and was often sick. Barb attended every band concert and school play. She taught me how to drive, do multiplication, take pictures of sunsets, play softball and a few other things I shouldn’t have learned! What Barb and I didn’t share was a faith in Jesus. Barb had thumbed her nose at God most of her life and was violently opposed to anything He had to say.

On October 1, 1987, my mother passed away after several strokes and an accelerated deterioration of her health. At that time Barb & I both wondered how dare God make mom suffer like that. Who did He think He was hurting this good woman who had sacrificed all her life? I later discovered that my mom had become a Christian as a child and recommitted her life to Christ before she died. Two years later, I became a believer and follower of Jesus. I made a point to try and be gentle with Barb. Maybe if she saw the love of God, she would respond. I prayed for her to be softened but over the years her heart became virtually impenetrable.

When I found out that Barb needed a kidney transplant in early 1996, I contacted my church’s Intercessory Prayer Team. For the next year and a half, this team of people prayed for Barb. My small group, Worship Team, my Dad–all prayed for Barb. I prayed for Barb. As her health declined, the focus of my prayer changed. I was not as concerned for her health as I was for her eternity. During a midweek service message on redemption, the teacher said there will come a day when God will pour out His vengeance on the ungodly. All I could picture was my sister being dashed upon the rocks in her rebellion and disbelief. I immediately prayed for a change in her heart. I prayed for courage in mine. I felt it was now my responsibility to make sure that Barb had every opportunity to repent. Two weeks before her death, the hospital rejected her application to their kidney/pancreas transplant program–her health was too poor to risk the operation. She was now to “rest” at home. Her stomach was unable to take in food and she could not keep down any pain medication. Her pain was so intense that the weight of a bed sheet would send her reeling. She was depressed and bitter and nasty. In that much pain, I’m surprised she offered to communicate at all. She knew that she was going to die and at this point her confounded family and friends had to come to terms with it. I asked what she thought death would be like. “Nothing,” she said. “This is it. There’s no more”. I told her that when she dies, she will spend eternity with God, or without Him. Even then she told me that it wasn’t the time to discuss this. I told her she had a choice to make but if she died without Jesus, there would be no relief from her suffering. She didn’t care.

Five days before she died, I visited Barb to read to her or bathe her–whatever I could do to make her more comfortable. Barb and her husband decided to stop dialysis treatment. I went in thinking that I had one more chance but when I got there, her attitude had completely changed. She was no longer angry but peaceful. She told me she was ready to die. I broke down crying and told her I didn’t want her to die without Jesus. She asked how I knew that she was going to Barb told me that she and Bob had been doing a lot of talking to Him lately and she’d made her peace with God. We proceeded to plan her funeral.

She was in and out of consciousness from that point on. We didn’t know for sure what was said in the quietness of Barb’s heart but all I knew is that I’ve never heard my sister mention the name of Christ unless it was in the midst of a foul curse. And now she mentioned Him in peace. Is prayer powerful? I believe so. Ultimately, there was nothing I or anyone else could say or give to Barb and no event I could invite her to attend that was going to change her heart. That was in God’s hands and in the prayers of the saints.

It is difficult not knowing for sure where a loved one has gone after death but I tried to rely on the hope of Christ. Without His sacrifice, there wasn’t even hope to cling to. Awhile later, I attended a women’s conference where Jill Briscoe brilliantly taught about Jesus the Good Shepherd. She explained sometimes a rebellious little sheep will run off and get himself entangled in a precarious position. If the shepherd tries to untangle him, the sheep will resist, putting it in even more danger. So, the shepherd must wait until the sheep gets too tired to fight anymore so he can move in and rescue it. A hot flash roared through my body and a revelation hit me. That fighting sheep was my sister! For years she fought any rescue attempt until she was finally too tired to resist her rescuer. I knew at that moment that Barb was safe in the Shepherd’s arms. I cherish the moment God gave me that revelation. A clear, overwhelming, overcoming answer to prayer.


3 responses to this post.

  1. This is a powerful story. I too have several family members whose salvation I pray for constantly. I don’t even think we can grasp how powerful prayer really is. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Your story is so touching. Thanks for posting it! I enjoy learning more about you and your family. Happy Birthday Barb!


  3. thanks for directing me to this post. I too, had a sister that died–was 8 years older than me, breast cancer, died at age 31 which was in 1988. I don’t know where she was with Jesus, never heard her mention at all and too much family stuff to get into here…but now that I know Him, I have to do all I can to help others, including my family, to be on the right path. thanks for sharing


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