Today is a special day for me. It is a hard one, but also one filled with memories, encouragement, inspiration and hope. It is my sister, Michelle’s birthday.
The reason it is hard is that Michelle never lived to see this day. She fought a hard battle with cancer, and beat it, but not in her physical body – her body succumbed to the disease many years ago, but her victories over it came early on, and continue to this day.
Last night Holly and I were talking about Michelle. I appreciated her asking me questions, just trying to get to know someone that was so close to me, and that helped shape the person I am today. Michelle was pretty amazing. Sure, she was the annoying little sister that was an expert at getting my brothers and I in trouble, but beyond that, I have never seen anyone with such a deep, intimate and profound faith as her.
My mom was very good at telling me that I could do and be anything (still is very good at it… thanks Mom), but Michelle was good at showing the faith to get there. Her faith was not a blind faith – she wasn’t just a crazy “I’m gonna conquer the world” kinda girl – although if she turned out that way I wouldn’t be surprised, because she would have honestly gotten it from mom (once this COVID-19 stuff gets under control and our lives resume some level of normal, my mom will take her second leap out of an airplane… at 80 years old).
There is a lot I remember about Michelle’s battle with cancer, but one that I didn’t know about until much later. Mom told me about the time when she had to tell her. When they talked about it, Michelle got quiet, and just “looked out”. My mom was worried about what was going on in Michelle’s little head, then Michelle responded,”God told me everything is going to be ok, and to not be afraid”. No one initiated prayer, there were no leading conversations that would have prompted that response, and she was too young to spout religious jargon. In the midst of an impossible future, faith and connection to the Father happened in an instant. This occurred time and time again.
When I was thinking of this post, the title “My Abel” made so much sense to me. For those in the know, Abel was a person of faith who was cut off of this life physically way before his time. In his case, the disease was hatred and jealousy, but the results were the same. He was taken from his family before he was able to live his life to the full. But, looking at it, can we really say that?
Digging into Abel’s story, after he died, God came to his brother, asking where Abel was. Cain tried to do an end around, which is the subject of another (and possibly soon) post, to which, God exclaimed, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground!” Ok, here’s the application: while Abel was physically gone, his life was still speaking. Still calling for righteousness, for justice, for connection with the Father. His life was not simply one to be dismissed or snuffed out. It was a life that would still have influence, even beyond the grave.
So Michelle is my Abel. Her faith, her intimacy with God, her love for family and friends continues to speak to me, and more than that – it commands me to fulfill that same legacy with my own family and friends. When I think of how she boldly walked the path the world threw at her with grace and smiles and love, I am so prompted to do the same regardless of what I am experiencing.
When I titled this “My Abel”, I also heard, “Am I Able?” It reminded me of a time that Michelle had lost the use of her legs, and yet said with such confidence, “I’m going to walk again”. Not because she was being in denial of her circumstance, but because she believed God had told her. So, when others would try to tell her to be more realistic, she wouldn’t waver… She was going to walk again (and she did 🙂 ). It is easy to focus on the things that stop us from achieving goals and dreams, but from Michelle’s life, I can answer the question – “Am I Able? Yes… yes I am!” So are you.
My friend’s father is currently lying in a hospital. The doctors said there was no hope, but he said “Yes I can”, and is defying all the doctor’s expectations. Each time they said “Don’t get your hopes up”, he would do things that would raise hope. That is “My Abel”. The world has been thrown into confusion and panic over COVID-19, but human kindness, love and appreciation and even nature itself has responded positively. That is “My Abel”. The list goes on and on.
So today, even in tears, because I miss my sister, I celebrate her life. I celebrate being the man I am, partly because of this little love bug who taught me, and continues to teach me to live each day to the fullest, not as if it was your last, but just because you can. That is a life well lived and a life that continues to live. That is my Abel.
As a foodie, I often will profile food vendors because of their product – if it is good, I’m gonna tell it. But I am going to profile one that I have yet to try, because her story is so powerful. The world threw everything at Kiauna Nelson: gangs, prison, drugs, etc., but that didn’t stop her. She rose from all of that to create Kee’s Loaded Kitchen, located on Beech and MLK in Portland Oregon. Just hearing her story is enough to make me want to try her food, because I know she pours every ounce of passion she has into making this the best it can be. Look for a review of Kee’s Loaded Kitchen coming soon. And to inspire you, here is her story