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Life on the Sunny Side

I had an errand to run, but leaving my house on this dismal winter evening was the last thing I felt like doing. What I preferred was to hunker down at home and allow the moodiness that had settled into my bones to keep me company instead. But funk or no funk, I'd committed to dropping off dinner to a church family who'd recently lost Annie, their wife and mom. So despite the frigid darkness and rush-hour traffic, I hustled into my car with a warm dinner in tow.

As the fragrant smell of chicken Kiev filled my Volkswagen, I turned on the car radio—only to hear more bad economic news. Feeling a bit edgy, I switched from station to station in search of something more encouraging. Just then, the pileup of taillights ahead suddenly flashed bright red, and I came to a standstill. Nuts, I thought, irritation rising within. Traffic's stopped moving. There must have been an accident!

And so this travel delay became one more item on my mental litany of complaints. I hated this miserable, never-ending winter; I ached physically from a recent, stupid tumble; I longed for my husband's constant business travel to curtail; I missed family members who lived out of state; I felt plagued by a recent and disturbing lack of purpose. Now halted cars that infringed on my to-do list irked me. Eventually, the traffic started moving, and I arrived at my destination. With a sinking heart, I noticed that except for a lonely overhead floodlight on their detached garage, their house was totally dark. Then I realized I'd forgotten to call the husband to confirm I was coming over with a meal that night.

Precariously juggling my containers of chicken and green beans and mashed potatoes, I followed the sidewalk to the family's back door and rang the bell, eying the dark and empty kitchen inside. No one answered. I rang again. No response.

So as I wedged the meal between their storm door and back door, I dug out my cell phone. I'd give them a quick call to alert them to the fact a once-warm meal was awaiting them there. Their answering machine kicked on. And then I listened, suddenly mesmerized, as a voice began singing "On the Sunny Side of the Street":

"Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street.

Can't you hear the pitter-pat
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be complete
On the sunny side of the street."

It was Annie's voice singing. Annie, who'd died just a few weeks earlier after a two-year battle with breast cancer. Annie, who left behind three children, a loving husband, and so many people who had been touched by her larger-than-life personality, her perseverance, and her testimony of faith in the face of grueling and unfair circumstances. I simply hadn't expected to hear her voice on the answering machine's outgoing message. Emotionally, I was undone.

I'd only met Annie after she learned her cancer was terminal, yet her indomitable spirit amazed me. During the months she underwent chemo, I and many others dropped off meals for her family, as I was doing this night. During those brief encounters, she talked openly about her prognosis, yet never hesitated to give God glory for the grace and peace she experienced on her journey.

As a mom, I couldn't imagine handling her situation with the same kind of confident faith she exhibited. I knew I'd be paralyzed with angst and grief and fear. But Annie knew—without a doubt—that life with Jesus, come what may, was a walk on the "sunny side of the street." Each time, I'd leave with the sneaky suspicion Annie was encouraging me, rather than the other way around.

So as I listened to Annie's singing answering-machine message that cold winter night, my pity-party suddenly stopped. Here was a woman who knew she was dying, yet remained confident that life, even in all its pain and suffering, was sweet. What reason had I to stew about my petty self-absorptions? Even in Annie's death, God used her life to challenge me.

So I left a brief voice message about the meal. Then I quietly drove home in the dark, pondering the light. Pondering Annie's life, and how God illuminates even the darkest of journeys when we turn our worries and sorrows over to him. Pondering how often my pity parties keep me from savoring life's sweetness, and then asking forgiveness for my selfish attitudes. And then contemplating the unexpected, powerful reminder that one day life will be complete on the sunny side of the street—in heaven, where Annie is, where the streets are paved with gold, where there is no darkness, no disease, no death. Ever again.

I'll never know what happened to the dinner I left behind that night. I hope Annie's family found it and enjoyed it. But what I do know, without a doubt, is that I was fed.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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