Two simple words made beautiful and significant by the life and death of my friend Sara: Choose joy.
Sara, our sweet GitzenGirl, was sick all the years I knew her. She had a confusing, complicated illness called Ankylosing Spondylitis that fused her spine (and other bones and joints) together. She had a rare form of the disease that progressed more severely and rapidly than usual, leaving her with very limited mobility and unspeakable amounts of pain.
Sara also developed a score of other illnesses and complications that left her with severe allergies. She was — get this — even allergic to the air. So Sara couldn’t go outside. She lived in her tiny Iowan condo with an air filtration system. She could never open a window or step out the door. She was completely homebound for over three years.
Yet — and I don’t say this lightly — Sara was the most joyful and Christ-like person I’ve ever known.
I don’t mean that she was saintly, at least not in the typical understanding of the word. She had a wicked sense of humor and was known among her close friends for her amazing potty mouth. That girl could curse like none other! Heh. But still… she showed me Christ every single day.
Sara reached beyond the confines of her illness, the walls of her condo, and the state of being homebound, and grabbed hold of community where she could: the internet.
Cut off from the world, suddenly the world was at her fingertips.
Sara’s life mantra was Choose Joy. It wasn’t merely a platitude she spoke to make herself feel better; it truly shaped how she lived her life. And it spilled over onto the thousands of people who got to know her heart through her words.
When the end was close and hospice was called in, friends bombarded Twitter with prayers for Sara. The hashtag #ChooseJoy spread like a wildfire, tying untold hearts together from all corners of the world… united in prayer and grief for our friend but also in the faith-filled resolve to continue her legacy. To choose joy even in spite of the heartache.
Sara went Home on September 24, 2011.
Friends from near and far traveled to her Iowan home for funeral and memorial services. Tribute blog posts flooded the blogosphere. Many got Choose Joy tattoos in Sara’s own handwriting. And the #ChooseJoy hashtag still continues strong on Twitter.
What a life.
What a legacy.
What a gift that I got to call her friend.
So today… Today I will choose joy.