On Thursday, March 9, 2017, heaven became one precious saint richer.
That was the morning my long-time, dear friend Victoria Kruse left behind the pain and suffering bound up in her body and went to meet Jesus face-to-face.
Vicki had been diagnosed with ALS a few years before she died. At first, her symptoms seemed to be increasing slowly. Gradually, as time went on, she lost the ability to speak, walk, and move purposefully. Yes, there were medicines that would take away much of her pain, but they would have made her less than alert. And Vicki wanted to stay as alert as she could, as long as she could, for the benefit of her husband, Ron, and their daughter, Molly.
As Vicki’s body deteriorated, she longed to be healed, and she believed until the very end that God could heal her miraculously, if He chose to do so. But even as it became more and more clear that she would probably not be healed on this earth, Vicki never stopped loving God.
Questioned why He would allow this? Of course. Who wouldn’t, in that situation?
But she never stopped loving Him and believing that her life, and even her death, were in His hands.
And she never stopped desiring to glorify Him, whether that were through a miraculous healing, or through the way in which she endured her suffering, or even in some way she didn’t understand.
It turned out that it was not God’s will to heal Vicki on this earth. But He abundantly satisfied her desire to glorify Him and bless others, despite the fact that she was physically unable to bless people in many of the ways we usually think of being blessed.
Vicki wasn’t able to attend my birthday party last year, but she asked her driver to drive her to Sonic to purchase a gift card for me (Sonic was our “thing” together) and then drive her to my house to give it to me.
She was no longer able to take my children out for ice cream at Braum’s, one-on-one, on each of their birthdays, but when the kids and I took a long plane trip, she asked me for ideas of what each child would enjoy reading or playing with on the trip. Then, she asked people to help her buy the gifts, and she asked to be driven to our house so she could present the gifts to my children and witness their delight.
She wasn’t able to form meaningful speech, much less sing, but when I took her on the long drives that helped relieve her pain (I had the privilege of being her weekend caregiver for six months), I would sing a variety of songs, and when I sang our favorite hymn (“It Is Well with My Soul”), she somehow sang with me. Maybe not in articulate words, but in the best body language of which she was capable, and in faint sounds.
Instead of her bringing me a vanilla shake from Sonic each time I was in the hospital after having a baby, we went to Sonic together—only now, I fed her a mini, double peanut butter, extra-thick shake, with the whipped cream she thought was really yummy, using a spoon. After she gave me the cherry on top to take home to Jessica, that is, because she knew Jessica loves maraschino cherries.
Vicki prayed for others. She listened to others, including me, and encouraged them. She laughed at my jokes and my quirky sense of humor.
Vicki continued to bless everyone who knew her, by being the same kind of smart, funny, caring, wonderful friend, mother, wife, and family member she had always been, right up until the end.
She poured out her love upon all of us from a frail, ineffective body, but a fully functioning heart, even when it caused her weariness or pain to do so.
And in so doing, she brought glory to the God she worshipped.
He granted her one of her deepest desires—the desire to bring Him glory—for years. And on March 9, He granted her second deepest desire—the desire to be physically healed.
As of 10:15 that morning, Vicki is no longer in pain. She’s not confined to a wheelchair anymore. She can run and walk and jump, and fix her hair just right. She can breathe.
As she breathes the clean, pure air of heaven and looks full and easily into Jesus’ wonderful face, the rest of us grieve. We rejoice for her and what she is experiencing now, but we mourn her absence. We weep her loss, even though we know we will see her again.
In the meantime, we strive to be like her in pouring out our love on those around us, because we who are able-bodied have far less excuse not to do so. We who still live, go on with our lives.
But sometimes, when the pain is particularly fresh, and the desire to be with Vicki again is particularly acute, we get in the car. We drive to Sonic. We order a vanilla shake.
And we drink it in her memory as the tears fall.
b. September 30, 1961
d. March 9, 2017
John 13:1—Having loved [her] own who were in the world, [she] loved them to the end. (NIV)
Romans 14:8—If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (NIV)