For Elvie (May 13, 1964 to Dec. 31, 2010)
(the eulogy I sobbed through for her memorial service)
I’ve only known Elvie since 2008. And, I have to confess, I only got to talk and know her this year—when all her hair was gone. The church was starting with cell groups and we thought that it would be a lot easier for Elvie if we just had one of the Bible studies at her house, that way her family could join in too. I didn’t know that Elvie had been praying for a Bible study at their house for a while now, so when I mentioned it to her, she was really excited.
So it’s most likely that you guys know her more, have more stories and adventures with her than I do. It’s likely that nothing I say will be new to you.
So why am I here? I don’t know! I’m just grateful for the opportunity to honor my friend among people who, like me, loved her and witnessed the miracle that is her life—even for a just a little while.
We all know how Elvie was strong and joyful still in the face of having her cancer, but I got to see first hand just how deep it really went at one of our Bible studies when I asked about what we are grateful to God for in our lives. And she replied, “I’m grateful for my cancer.”
And I said, “Really?” more out of surprise. And later on, I would ask if she had any regrets and she said she had none. She took something that one would normally see as a cause to question God’s goodness and plan for her life as an opportunity to know her Father even more intimately. She said she experienced firsthand how it was to truly depend on Him for everything—her health, her strength, for provisions. And for her, she always had enough.
She looked at her cancer—something that is so scary and painful and crippling—and considered it not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us– to her. It was a good exchange for her for a chance to live out her faith, to get to know God beyond what she would, in normal health, have.
And while her relationship with God was something that was so personal and intimate, we—and anybody who got to know her, even for just a little while—bore witness to their wonderful relationship and was blessed by it.
One time, when Elvie needed blood donors, one of my friends volunteered to donate, but he got rejected because he just had surgery that year. So, he just went up to her room in Makati Med to pray for her. He texted me later that it was such a blessing to meet someone who was still so joyful in the Lord in the midst of her sickness. He found it funny because he came up to bless her, and instead he came away blessed. Elvie texted me later to thank me for sending my friend up to pray for her and that he’s cute.
I was reading through her text messages in my phone… “Ok, blood test ko kanina, platelet 112,000 kasi uminom ako ng katas ng fresh papaya leaves, hemoglobin 9 kasi nagpa-inject ako ng mahal na gamot worth P13,500, white blood cells 2.38…Sobrang manas na ako, hirap maglakad, left hand ko maga din… But I thank God that He continues to sustain me and gives me strength. He is so good! He is in control!”
Parang Psalms no? At first it’s like a lament, but in the end there’s rejoicing because of God’s goodness despite all that is happening.
I wrote about her in my blog last September, I even got her to read it (I had to zoom the page really close because her eyesight’s bad already). I quoted a line from a book I was reading at a time and I remembered her, “Not all powers are spectacular. Sometimes the hardest power to master is the power of yielding.”(Hestia, The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan)
By yielding to the fact that she could succumb to her sickness at any time, Elvie had her priorities straight. Each day counted. She keept on going so that God’s power and glory could all the more be shown in what was left of her days, and to see the people she had shared the Gospel to grow closer to our Savior. I guess that’s why she fought to stay around longer than her doctors expected her to. That’s why even while she had just checked out of the hospital earlier that day, and already had a hard time walking, and it was raining really hard (so hard, that it kept most of the people from going to the fellowship) on October 1, she still went to church to share her story at the SAM Octoberfeast.
She made every day count.
And I’m not saying that Elvie put on a brave face all the time. She never made it a secret that she was afraid of the pain her cancer would bring, but she had surrendered her sickness to God. She was ready to go whenever God called her home. Her only prayer was to be able to keep on serving until the end. She was no longer afraid of death because it was already welcome any time. Even then, she was already free from the fear of death. What a glorious victory!
I’m not asking to get cancer like Elvie—but God, how I want what she had with You! But the Stef version (heh). The peace, the joy in adversity, the steadiness against overwhelming odds, and the strength—oh the strength!—until the end.
Praise You, o Lord, for Elvie’s life. That was really something beautiful. Praise you.