Save Room for Nora
by Lori Anderson, Local & Global Initiatives at EFC Southwest
I met Nora in a class for cancer patients. I was wrapping up my treatments and had a good prognosis for a healthy future; Nora was at the beginning of an uncertain journey.
I would soon be returning to work and figuring out how to resume my (new) normal life. Nora was working through her treatment and living without an answer to even the most basic question of her cancer’s origin. She knew it was growing everywhere, but the doctors couldn’t seem to figure out where it had begun.
While gathered with a small group of women (ranging in age from 16 to nearly 80), Nora and I discovered some things we had in common – we were the same age, we each had a sibling with previous cancer, we both clearly appreciated a sense of humor. As we left that day, we shared an elevator and continued to chat in the parking lot.Eventually she asked if we could exchange phone numbers and have lunch sometime. I agreed, although I usually prefer to be politely detached when meeting new people.
A couple of weeks later I met her for lunch. I enjoyed her company and listening to her story. I would be surprised if she had any faith history at all. Her life seemed like one of repeated disappointments and little hope, mixed with a very amusing and hostile cynicism. Interestingly, she never asked me a single question about my life, although she shared with me a lot about hers.
I had been a little nervous that morning, and my husband reminded me that I bring Jesus with me everywhere I go, and He can make His presence known with or without my words. Still, I felt guilty that I didn’t tell her about Jesus, that she didn’t know that I was a Christian. She didn’t know my husband was a hospice chaplain and pastor, that my job was related to missionaries and starting new churches. For some reason, I believed that my words were more powerful than the presence of Christ in me.
On my way home that day, I sensed a nudge from God saying, “Save room in your life for people like Nora.” I was anticipating returning to work, considering how I would resume involvement in church life, putting coffee dates on the calendar with my friends. I’ve been a “church girl” all my life and didn’t really know HOW to befriend the Noras in my world. I could fill my calendar with lots of good things and never meet or see the Noras around me.
About a year ago, I realized I hadn’t heard from Nora for about 3 months. I texted her, and a few minutes later my phone rang. It was her husband. He told me she had died about a month earlier, and asked how I knew her. We had a very poignant and tearful conversation for about 20 minutes.
It’s still an emotional memory and lesson for me. I bring the presence of Christ with me every day, everywhere I go. When I live with an awareness of Christ in me, I may have an impact on people unknown to me. And I don’t really have to know because it’s not about me. I just have to bring the love and presence of Christ to the Noras in my world.
I don’t know if I’ll meet Nora again in heaven one day. I really hope so. But I know that she taught me something truly remarkable, and I’m grateful.