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"Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength." ~Anonymous 


When 2TheHeart first launched four years ago, I wrote a story about my remarkable friend, Merrym. Today's story is about Merrym and a beautiful gift she gave our family.

"Reaching for the Clouds"
by Susan Farr Fahncke

It started with a taco. She wanted us to bring her one, and at 11:00am, I thought at some point during the day we'd make it over with a taco and a good visit. Merrym is my friend. I love her dearly, but I
also admire her more than any human being I know. She doesn't know this - she thinks I just bring her smoothies and fast food because I'm a kind soul. What she doesn' know is that she lifts my spirit and
every moment with her brings new lessons in Life and a friendship that is forever.

Merrym is my age, 39. I look at me and I think 39 is old. I look at Merrym and I think it is so very young to be where she is.

In her twenties, Merry contracted the flesh-eating bacteria. It ate away most of the muscles in her right leg. The medication she was given caused her to have a stroke. In one fell swoop, a beautiful,
spirited young woman with two small children, lost her ability to walk, talk and use her limbs. She endured hell on earth just to get to baby steps and a modicum of functionality.

I met her long after all this. She was in a wheelchair, had brown sparkling eyes and slurred speech that I could tell frustrated her because she was so incredibly intelligent and witty, but the stroke took away the ability to convey that easily. It didn't stop her though. Over time I got to know her and she stole my heart. In everything she attempted, she was unstoppable. She was the most enthusiastic worshipper at church, she was funny, determined and a little nutty. I loved her.

It is now years after Merrym and I first met and several months ago she had her leg amputated after infection set in. I wasn't even there, I didn't even know. I had gotten so caught up in my own life that I let our friendship fall by the wayside. A couple of months after this happened, she called and told me. I felt like the biggest jerk on earth that I hadn't been there for her.

Our friendship has since grown closer and a few weeks ago I got a call that stopped my heart. She was in the hospital again, with another infection in what was left of her leg and I heard something in her
voice that I had never heard before. Fear. It took a lot to scare that woman, so it scared me right to my core.

Prayers were said far and wide. A lot of people love Merrym, so the prayers were many and they were strong. Slowly Merrym began to heal. That was the good news. The bad news was that now she had to be moved to a nursing home until she was strong enough to go home. The nursing home is icky and gross and she is by far the youngest person there.

Determined not to let her down again, I visit often and we laugh and thoroughly enjoy our time together. Today I called and asked her what she wanted to eat (nursing home cuisine is NOT taco Bell.) and she asked for a taco.

The day got away from us and one errand turned into several and the hours slid by as the snow storm hit hard. Seeing cars off the road in several places, I told my husband I thought we should just go home and could see Merrym "later". Giving me a look that told me I was being a lousy friend, he told me we were going and that was that.

With our arms filled with Taco Bell bags and drinks, my family crowded into Merrym's small room and the look of joy on her face as she sat in her wheelchair, waiting, made my throat catch at the thought that I had almost let her down. Again.

"Yay!" she greeted us with open arms, as usual. She is so loving, so jubilant, it's always like walking into spring time.

It was then that I remembered why she was waiting for us. It wasn't for the taco, which she quickly set aside. I settled down on the extra bed in her room and waited as she reached down to turn on her CD
player, next to her wheelchair. It seemed that it too, was waiting for us to arrive.

I felt ashamed as I remember her telling me about the song she was going to perform at her church in sign language. Sign language for my Noah, who is deaf. She works on her signing skills more than anyone who knows Noah and it is simply because she loves him. She wanted to try her song out for us and had been waiting all day to do this. Now I felt like an even bigger jerk.

The music began, sweet, soothing and a stillness filled the room. I felt goosebumps on my arms as the spirit of God's peace settled over us like a soft blanket. Beautiful lyrics sung by a Christian group played and Merrym raised her arms and began to sign the song based on Psalm 36.

"The mercy oh Lord is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reaches unto the clouds. We put our trust under the shadow of Your wings."

As I watched her sign the song, my eyes filled with tears. It was truly beautiful. Merrym's fingers stiff and unbending, she signed with all her heart and utter humility. It was a song sent up to Heaven. I
sat in silence, tears pouring down my face and a peek at my husband told me he was crying too. The children were mesmerized. It was a magical, incredible, unforgettable moment.

I watched Noah, all of six years old, and already he realized not many people in his world know his language. "Merrym is signing!" he signed to me, his blue eyes wide.

I grinned at my golden boy and watched as my dear, sweet friend leaned her head back and closed her eyes as she let the music guide her signing. She looked exactly like an angel. Every time her fingers
tried to interlace for the sign of "prayer", I cried a little harder.  It was so hard for her to do. Her fingers don't bend much, from the stroke she had, yet there she was, fiercely focused, signing her song
in a purely selfless gift.

I was sobbing by the time the song finished and leapt up to wrap my arms around her. Our whole family circled her wheelchair in hugs and tears. It was a precious moment that I will forever hold in my heart.

Merrym teaches me so much. The scriptures written on the little chalk board in her room help her keep her faith and spirits up. She sets goals for herself on a continual basis to keep herself from getting
depressed. She struggles ten times harder than I do in simple daily things and her joy in life and in people is awesome. Her fight is always uphill. It always will be. But her spirit is stronger, more valiant, more faithful than anyone I know. She will always be reaching for the clouds. And always under the shadow of His wings.

Susan Farr Fahncke copyright 2004

I am the founder of 2TheHeart and recently put together our brand new 2TheHeart book! I am also the founder of our wonderful group of angels who send care packages, cards and prayers to those in need, . I teach online writing workshops and continue to write in my spare time, which is generally in the middle of the night. :)




The Letter Box:

Dear Lyn,
Such a beautiful tribute to your father in "One Mile at a Time". I believe as long as one has memories, the person will never completely go away. God bless you, Mike Segal LCSW

ps my wife is also a part time speech pathologist.

Dear Lyn,
What an awesome story told from the depths of your heart! Your very first sentence captivated me, and I felt as though I was 'living the moment' with you. Thank you for sharing with us in this way, and may God bless you as you continue to use your talents for Him! By the way, it is realllllly special that you got to complete your dad's oddysy, not only was it a tribute to him, I know it must have been healing for you, as well as showing you the lesson of "one mile at a time."
Sincerely, Rita Spillers (a 2theheart writer and charter member of

Dear Lyn,
I loved your story about your father and the trek your brother and you took in his honor. What a beautiful way to honor him!

Thank you,

Dear Susan,
I'd like to thank all the readers who wrote me personally and those who wrote you about my story, "Alzheimer's Doesn't Have to Devastate You." I appreciate their taking time to write and I'm glad I could
offer encouragement and inspiration. Even though my mom is no longer living, I know she'd be pleased that her story helps others. That's why I've continued to write and speak about this disease. I'm excited about an upcoming opportunity to give a presentation at a library about my book, "When We Become the Parent to Our Parents," and about the history of caregiving throughout the last century. Have a lovely day, Mary Emma

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