In honor of this, my most favorite holiday, I wanted to post about an angel in my life who taught me how to be grateful and to love.
In my church, women are assigned to visit other ladies each month—to teach, to care for them when trials come, and to love them. A few years ago, I was assigned a new woman to visit named Paula. She was a lot older than me. She was a stranger because she never came to church. The reason she never attended was that she had Multiple Sclerosis. She’d been diagnosed with the disease as young mother after her last child was born. For 35 years, as her body had been attacked again and again, she’d lost the use of her legs, her arms, her neck. She was an invalid.
When I was told of her condition and that I was to visit her, my first thoughts were those of terror. What would I say? How could I comfort her or do anything that would truly help her? I felt so sorry for her and knew my pity would show (even though I was born and raised in Las Vegas, I’ve never had a good poker face).
When I first met Paula, I noticed how her head flopped to the side in an awkward position. More trepidation filled me. Her husband propped her up with pillows on a chair across the room from us. And that’s the position Paula stayed in the entire time.
Instead of a feeble woman groaning about her hard lot in life though, I discovered a vibrant angel whose wings here on earth were clipped. Paula drew me and my friend out of our scared shells and magically got us talking about our families, and I soon forgot she was an invalid. I had come to comfort and uplift her, but instead…she did that for me. I felt at ease in her presence and knew that she loved me…even though she’d just met me.
An hour and a half later when my friend, Sally, and I left Paula, we were both different people. We’d been touched by an angel and would never be the same again. We both sat in the car to drive home a little stunned. And then I said, “Wow! She’s an angel. For real. I have never felt so loved.”
That was Paula’s gift. All who met her, felt her radiating love. It was a powerful force…so strong it made her sparkle with an energy that defied her disease. I think God gave her MS to keep her on earth, for she would have flown away to heaven with her goodness if she’d not been confined by her diseased body. And then where would that have left the rest of us. We would have missed out on the heavenly experience.
Paula remembered everything about others. Each time I came, she would ask about my kids, and she always recalled every detail of what I’d told her previously. She astounded me with how wrapped up she was in my life. I loved to visit her and couldn’t wait to take in a meal and just sit with her and talk. I took my husband and kids to meet her and they loved her too. How can you not love an angel?
Even though Paula’s wings were clipped here on earth, which kept her from serving with her legs and arms, she did more good with her love than anyone I know. When she passed away in November 2010, it was a bittersweet time. I missed her as much as my own grandmother. Who would I talk to now? Who would uplift my spirit and buoy me up when I felt down? No one could replace Paula.
And then I realized the lesson I had learned from Precious Paula. Love is the most important gift we have to give to each other. We might have money, we might be a talented cook, or artist, or writer or a hard worker, but if we do those things without LOVE for others…our results will fade and mean little in life.
Unlike worldly wealth, love grows by sharing it. The more we show love for our families and ourselves, the more that love grows. Paula proved that love never dies. We still talk about Paula, and how much we love her. Her love is still with us. And that’s priceless.
I’m grateful for love that has been freely given to us by God. I am grateful He sends angels into my life to teach me more about Him. Paula taught me that there is so much to be grateful for; just open your eyes. I never once heard her complain, even though she lived in constant pain. She beamed with joy, even though by the world’s standards, she had no reason to be cheerful. But she had love, and she shared it. I will never forget her.
Paula…thank you for allowing me into your home and teaching me how to love. I can’t wait to see you in the next life.