Last month I lost two women who were close to me. The contrast between them could not have been greater.
One was born in India, in to a loving family. Her parents cared for her, protected her, and got her started in life. They valued the idea of educating their daughters, which was not common for that time.
She worked hard, and used her intellect and abilities to graduate from medical school. Not many women got that much education back then, especially a girl from a modest family.
She prayed for a miracle, and God answered. He opened the way for her to go to America, where she followed her dreams and became an allergist. She settled in a small city of the Midwest, and built a large practice, helping many overcome allergies and asthma.
On top of that, she built a large clinical trials practice and published hundreds of papers. She also traveled extensively, teaching and lecturing. Very few physicians outside of university research settings did what she managed to do.
Her career came to a crashing halt when she was diagnosed with cancer.
The other woman was born in Mexico, into a poor family. Her oldest uncle barely finished the second grade, her mother didn’t get much past high school.
When she was born, she didn’t breathe properly. It took several minutes to get her respiration started.
No one knew the depth of the damage that oxygen deprivation caused. It wasn’t until she was 12 that she was diagnosed. Brain damage and mild mental retardation. Later, in her teens she developed schizophrenia.
One of her uncles moved to America and finished graduate school. He invited his sister and her two daughters to join him. Fourteen years later, their papers came through.
The one niece attended college. The other, the handicapped one, languished. Her mother died of cancer, leaving her in the care of her sister.
We prayed for a miracle, and God answered. He opened the way for her to be placed in a wonderful residential program in Mexico, one of only a handful of places like it in the country. There she found a place where she would be encouraged to fulfill her potential.
Her education came to a crashing halt when she died suddenly.
While so very different, these two women have much in common. They both came from poverty. They both cared a great deal about people. Both were victims of sexual assault. Both loved fine food. (And IHOP.)
Both brought me great joy, in their companionship and their love. Both will be missed greatly, in different ways.
Most importantly, both loved Jesus, knowing that He died to set us free from sin, our own, and the effects of having been sinned against. Both are now with Him, free of pain and illness.
Which is the best gift any of us can receive this Christmas season. The gift of eternal life.