I didn’t know her very well. We had mutual friends and we both had kids so we wound up in the same places occasionally. She was always friendly and easy to like. She was pretty, but there was something more than that about her appearance. There was a genuineness about her that could be seen in her eyes and it made her sparkle. Some people just look like that, like the love inside them is so strong that it bubbles up and out of them and right into the room. God shined through Lisa.
One evening, we found ourselves seated next to each other in a school auditorium for a performance. It was about 2004 and I had begun to use a walker. She noticed.
We exchanged pleasantries. With words easily formed, she asked me why I needed the walker. I told her “I have MS”. Then, in perfectly comfortable conversation, she asked me a question nobody had ever asked me before, and nobody has asked me since.
“What’s it like to have MS?”
Her question surprised me. Not because I was uncomfortable being asked, but because I honestly hadn’t thought about what it was like. It was a pretty deep question to be asked by anyone, and especially by someone I didn’t know well. I had to pause and think about it. And, after the pause, I was a little surprised by my answer.
“Isolating”. I said.
One word….isolating. MS would prove to be much more than that as time went on, but the isolation it causes is still the most difficult thing I face.
In the middle of that crowded and noisy auditorium, she looked at me with understanding, with compassion but not pity, and she said “I bet it is”.
She had asked a bold question without making it sound bold, and she had validated my answer, all in a brief moment.
The lights dimmed and the show started. When it ended, we said goodbye and left with our families.
I didn’t see her much after that. Lisa had cancer…or cancer had Lisa. It was not surprising that a big chunk of our small community knew and loved Lisa. There was a fundraiser at the school with a large turnout where people did what they could to support the family. Everything possible was done to keep her alive, but science and/or money could not cure her. Cancer has no mercy
Her husband and her five children grieve more than anyone of course, but she left a hole in the community when she died.
Lisa had a way of getting to the heart of a matter and talking about what was important without sounding awkward or making others feel awkward. There just aren’t many people like her. People who speak words that climb over the superficial wall of conversation and ask questions that matter. People who hand you their heart for a moment. People whose impact on your life isn’t forgotten.
That day, I learned that, for me, MS feels isolating. More importantly, I experienced the difference between most people and people like Lisa. Whether you were a close friend or an acquaintance, Lisa cared about people and she demonstrated it by asking questions. She was an example of how to love people with words.
I’m glad I knew Lisa. May we all be more like her.