August 3, 2005 - "Getting the Point" by Susan Farr-Fahncke
Welcome to 2TheHeart!
"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Our stories about the Power of Change continue this week! Monday's story about how Lisa lost her sight and went on to become a sought-after artist touched so many hearts. I know there are many of us needing to make changes in our lives and am really excited at the stories, quotes and thoughts that I am being led to (and led to write!) on this subject. I know this is for a reason, and I hope it inspires and strengthens you.
"Getting the Point" by Susan Farr-Fahncke
Cancer changed her. I don't mean physically, that was secondary to what it did to her spirit. The outward signs of her battle with it were obvious, as they are with most cancer patients. My beautiful little sister became bald from the radiation, her sweet face swollen from the steroids that, ironically, kept the swelling in her brain down, and because her right side had been paralyzed from the brain tumor, she also wore the numerous bruises and scars that came from constantly falling down. She looked like she had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson, but these aren't the real changes that happened because of cancer.
I believe that we are put here on earth to become the best we can be. Plain and simple. We lived before and we'll live after. So the reason we are here is to evolve as human beings. We can use our time on earth to acquire things.cars, houses, toys, status.all just things. They aren't our purpose here. And at twenty-eight, my sister learned how to be something many people never figure out.
I've written about my sister's spirit many times. How she was so giving and compassionate, how patient she was with the illness that little by little strangled the life out of her tired body. She was humble and grateful to God for the lessons she was learning - it was astounding, really. But she wasn't always like that.
Angel was the youngest of three daughters. I was in the middle and Lisa is our oldest sis. Lisa and I are less than a year and a half apart, and Angel was almost eight years younger than me, so she truly was the baby of the family.
At the age of not-quite-three, Angel was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought and won that battle, but I think because of it, we all babied her more and treated her like a fragile princess, because watching a tiny toddler come that close to death makes you forever scared that something bad will happen to her. I think we turned her into something she wouldn't have been with all our spoiling and pampering, because although she always had a very kind heart, she was also materialistic and selfish to the point of just being plain obnoxious at times. I always secretly thought that Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could learn a thing or two from my little sis. For the first twenty-seven years of her life, she lived for clothes and having things and thought of little else.
But then cancer came. I think if I would have been given a brain tumor and a year to live, I would have become very angry and very focused on the things that would never be. Even just the thought of that happening to me now sends me into a panic. But Angel accepted it and learned from it from day one.
We rushed her off from one doctor appointment to the next. We took her to all her treatments and sat with her in the hospital, willing the IVs and treatments and doctors to take away this thing in her head.
But in retrospect, none of the fighting was really her idea. She seemed to be humoring us, as if she had other, more important things to do. She had to learn. She had to grow and she had to change, and she didn't have much time in which to do it.
I remember in the beginning, the doctors weren't sure if it was a cancerous tumor in her brain, or some kind of pocket of infection. One morning we were all in the car, taking her to a neurologist, hoping for some conclusive news and some ray of hope that this bad dream would just come to a happy end. Before we left the driveway, Angel said, "We need to have prayer."
Duh. In the rush of getting there on time and the panic of our thoughts, we had forgotten to pray. "I'll say it," she said. We all bowed our heads and waited for her to hurry up and pray. We were late, after all.
"Dear Father in Heaven, I'm so thankful." she began and then her voice broke as she began to cry, which of course, made us all cry as well. "Thank you for this opportunity." (OPPORTUNITY??? My brain screamed.) "Thank you for bringing us closer together as a family." (Ah. That opportunity.) "Thank you for all the blessings that are coming from me being sick." Her sweet and somber voice continued.
I don't remember the rest of the prayer, but I remember the huge lesson I learned in that one moment. My little sis wasn't just growing up, her spirit was growing in the exact direction God wanted it to. She was teaching me, teaching our parents, teaching Lisa and everyone around her. Thank you for this opportunity. Years later, it still makes me say, "WOW". She was phenomenal.
Life is about change. No matter where you are at this moment, you can always change for the better. Angel taught me that. She made a lifetime of changes in that last fourteen months of her life. Frankly, her life was a bit of a mess before she got sick. But facing death has a way of clarifying things, of sharpening your perspective.
As most people do, we brought her many gifts in the hospital. It was a small way to comfort her, to lend strength where we thought she needed it. Now I know strength was something she never lacked.
My "selfish" sister immediately gave our gifts to other people in the hospital, often insisting and never apologizing, that we wheel her into the other rooms to give her gifts to others. Angel figurines so carefully selected for her quickly ended up in another patient's room. Flowers for her were divided up and given to other people. She even made us bring her bouquets of roses for that very reason. She painstakingly, with her one good hand, divided them up and with a smile that lit up the room, visited the other people in the hospital, chatting with them, genuinely concerned about how they were doing. I stood behind her chair, grinning and invisible, filled with pride at the changes in my baby sister. She focused outward, on everyone around her, showering them with love and compassion, an angel to the core.
Angel spent that last year fighting, but more importantly, she filled her heart with faith and complete trust in God's plan for her. She NEVER said "Why me?" and never wallowed in self-pity, as I surely would have done. Her last year was physically painful, miserable in every way. That disease. I can't even explain how devastating it was on her physically. Only those who have fought cancer and all its indignities or who have watched a loved one fight it can truly know the whole picture.
But her spirit. Her spirit soared. She changed in leaps and bounds. She became everything she needed to be to fulfill her time on earth. She became Christ-like in her love for others. She loved everyone, I mean everyone. You should have seen her funeral. Both sides of the funeral home, usually used for two separate funerals, were packed and overflowing. There wasn't a soul she met that she didn't make feel completely loved and accepted exactly the way they were.
When I gave her eulogy in a fog of pain and deep drowning grief, I looked out at all the faces and realized she "got it". She fully got the point of her time on earth. She made the changes she needed to, quietly, humbly and fully determined. She became the daughter of God that I know He was pleased with. I am honored to have been around for it all and honored to call her my little sis.
It is now four years later, but the tears still come when I see her photo, or remember some precious moment we shared. I hope I live my life the way she taught me to, fully devouring every single moment, keeping my heart open to love others unconditionally, and having the courage and humility to let God shape me, to make the changes He wants for me. I will forever be grateful that she taught me that, even if it's not the miracle we think we need, God can and will work miracles in us.
Susan Farr-Fahncke copyright 2005 email@example.com
I am the author of Angel's Legacy, my book about my sister's journey through life, also the co-author of numerous books and contibutor to gobs of books, magazines and web sites. I also founded 2TheHeart, Angels2TheHeart and love my jobs! My favorite job is being mom to Nick, Maya, Noah and new baby Ian and stepmom to Brandie. You can see more of my writing on my page at 2TheHeart, or in our story archives. http://www.2theheart.com/susan_farr_fahncke
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The Letter Box:
My mother has recently lost almost 90% of her vision. She has been so hopeless and depressed. I called her and read this story to her and we both cried on the phone. Lisa Fittipaldi may not know it, but she has helped to save my mother's life. She shared with me that she feels like she can do anything if Lisa can. She wants me to help her write her life story and I am so excited to see her motivated again! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sheri in Georgia
I love your story theme this week! I am personally working on quitting smoking and need this support more than ever. 2TheHeart has been for many years a wonderful source of inspiration to me. I am enclosing a poem that constantly helps me to change. I hope it helps other readers too. Love, Geena
When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit-
It's when things go wrong that you must not quit.
I just read My Mind's Eye and I am so proud of Lisa. She has had to overcome so much and I am sincerely grateful that Al was there for her, like an earth angel and truly a man in love! I will watch for her paintings. Bouquets to this outstanding lady for a wonderful heart touching story. Bouquets to this inspiring woman for her courage to take the other blessings God gave her and utilize them. She gives light to many.
Ellie Braun-Haley, Canada
What an inspiration Lisa is! I don't know if I would have had the gumption to do all that she does if I would have lost my sight - she is truly a role model. Thank you for sharing this story ----- I needed this right now for reasons I won't go into, but just know it inspired me.
Thank you, Millie
Making a difference!