Hebrews 13:2 advises us to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I am learning this every day in my career and education. You never know who might need it the most. They might be your guardian angel.
The restaurant I work with is doing a corporate-endorsed campaign for cancer research through the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. They team up to create seasonal healthy recipes for cancer patients or people with other dietary needs. A few months out of the year, employees are encouraged to engage the community with an incentive to raise money or awareness towards cancer research. This June, customers and employees are encouraged to donate at least $1, with or without a purchase of food, and write an encouraging note to be displayed in the store. It is a great cause and a seemingly easy campaign that brings our large-yet-small community together – and it gets me thinking every time I go to work now.
As I wrote a few articles back, my family has been heavily affected by cancer. My mom’s side of the family carries the breast cancer gene, while my dad’s side of the family has seen many cases of different types of cancer. We have lost both of my grandfathers, my maternal aunt and grandmother, and my maternal great-aunt to cancer. My parents and I have all had additional experience watching friends or neighbors suffer from some form of this disease. My kindergarten teacher passed away from breast cancer the summer after I was in her class, leaving her two young boys to grow up without a mother. A sweet classmate I graduated with had cancer our freshman year of high school.
The case that is most recent in my life is that of a dear friend who trained me at my first job. Lori Ann Greeno passed away March 9, 2015, leaving behind a son, a daughter-in-law, and countless friends and family who loved her so deeply. This loud, witty, vivacious, enlightening woman helped me find joy and purpose when I felt vulnerable and unequipped. While I was enduring a tough school year, her smile could light up the room and clear away all darkness and sadness. On one particular day, I went straight to work after receiving a heavy load of new information. Lori could sense that I was already overwhelmed with the lunch rush and hugged me tighter than I could bear. Her simple presence encouraged her “McAlister’s family” to stay strong and positive, for what did we have anything to be sad about when she was fighting cancer? Nevertheless, she did not dwell on her illness, but rather dwelled in the joy and strength of her Lord.
I have been accepting of her death for a while now. I have known that she has been with our Father for a year and three months. Her spirit lives strong through Jesus Christ, as John 11:25-26 reminds me. I was able to see this on June 1 when my workplace started the cancer campaign. A woman whom I could tell is a cancer patient was standing in line, and if I didn’t look too hard, I would have confused her for my Lori. This woman looked so much like my dear friend in that she had almost no hair, a similar body frame, and large, clear eyes that could light up a room. She appeared worn and tired, but carried her struggle with grace and silence, as Lori would.
I was floored when I saw this beautiful, courageous woman in line; I would consequently have to stomach the grief that was set on by this because this was the first time I have seen Lori in a person. I am easily able to see her in acts of service and salvation, frequent as they are at my school and workplace. I can see her playful spirit and prevalent wisdom in elephants, her favorite animal. I see the color baby pink and remember the balloon release a few of her closest work friends and I put together on the day of her memorial service. I think of her every single time I drive by my old workplace. After 15 months of knowing she is hand-in-hand with the Lord, I have yet to see her in the face of another cancer survivor. It was such a profound moment that I can’t bring myself to describe.
I just know that my family and I have always believed in guardian angels; it’s a truth and a strong tradition that we hold very dear. Hebrews 1:14 helps us understand by facing us with this question: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Seeing this woman at my job reminds me that there is beauty in all circumstances, and the Lord is ever present (James 1:17). Revelation 21:4 gives us the promise that our loved ones are safe and free in Heaven; God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." It is an incredible feeling to know that her legacy lives on.
To the woman who visited my workplace: I do not know you, nor do I know that I will see you again. I want you to know that you are beautiful and blessed, and you have inspired me (Hebrews 10:24-25).
To my sweet gracious Lori: I love you, I miss you, and I am so glad you get to spend eternity with the Lord. I will see you soon enough, but I am sharing your legacy in the meantime, and I hope that I am making you proud.