When I was a little girl, our neighbors next door had two daughters: Diane was my age and she had a younger sister, Denise. Denise had been born with spina bifida. She spent most of her young life either on crutches or in a wheelchair. I remember she’d sit and watch all the other kids playing, unable to participate, silent on the sidelines. She also spent a lot of time seeing doctors and going through different forms of treatment, which had to be incredibly torturous for a child.
I don’t remember how old we were, but one summer week my family was going camping. We did a lot of camping since it was an affordable vacation option and we loved spending time out in the woods surrounded by nature. I was hooked on squirrels and raccoons, chasing toads, digging for salamanders under rocks and fallen logs, and scooping tadpoles and crawfish from ponds and creeks. My brothers and dad loved to fish. Mom would relax and read while the rest of us ran rampant through woods or swam and splashed in warm, sun sparkled lakes.
But this particular trip, while we were away, Denise was going to the hospital for surgery. I’m not sure if I was aware of that before or after the trip. I do know I was too young to really comprehend what ‘surgery’ meant and I had absolutely no reason to think Denise wouldn’t be home again when we got back from our camping trip or at least soon after.
One night during that week, I dreamed Diane, Denise, and I were playing; running around in this immense playroom, bright beaming colors filled this boundless sunny room. And it hit me: Denise was running! She wasn’t using crutches or watching Diane and I from her wheelchair-she was running around after us, perfectly fine, happy and healthy!
We carried on, chasing each other, laughing and giggling little girl giggles as this whiteness, this blinding bright light filled the air around us. I don’t recall a face or a figure so much as the light, and how it filled everything, but I knew it was God. We stopped and stood in awe: white bright wonder and peace. He said He had come to take Denise, it was time for her to go home. He lifted her up and she was just gone then, and the playroom seemed to melt away as the dream slowly dissipated…
I couldn’t wait to tell Mom when we woke up the next morning! I saw God! He took Denise and she was healthy! She was walking and running! She was happy! My heart danced in excitement of all I had seen.
Mom shot me right down, “You can’t dream about seeing God. That means you’ll die.”
Hmmph. I know what I saw, and I wasn’t dead. I played that dream over and over in my head the rest of our camping trip. Pretty cool to see God.
When we arrived home that Sunday, we were met with the news that Denise had passed away during her surgery. Our hearts were filled with the sorrow and loss of this precious sweet girl who’d lived next door for such a short, brief time. But, I also knew in my heart where she had gone. And I knew she was no longer bound to crutches or a wheelchair. She no longer knew pain or limitations, but was walking, running, dancing, spinning circles, laughing light and happiness. She was home. She was home.
So, no matter what happens in my life, how crazy bad things here in this world might seem, I will never doubt that there is God. That there is something so much better, so much brighter, yet to come. I’ve seen. Denise is there. My dad is there, my brother, too. I believe.