“Angels come to visit us and we only know them when they are gone.”
George Elliot, novelist and poet
It was the happiest – saddest day I had ever experienced. A menagerie of stuffed animals stood among countless photographs and neatly arranged flowers. We were there to mourn the loss of a little girl and to celebrate the gift of her friendship.
Sharleen Zader, age 11, was wearing a new dress with lots of lace and ribbons The first time I saw that dress was a month earlier. She had announced to everyone she was going to wear it to church the first Sunday after she got out of the hospital. Taking it out of the box that day, I found a clear plastic bag to hang it in so she could keep an eye on it from her bed.
My friendship with Sharleen and her family began at The Ronald McDonald House where I did volunteer work. Sharleen was losing a three-year battle with cancer. Swollen cheeks and the loss of her hair did not take away her smile or conquer her spirit. She was always glad to see me and would often say she was praying for me. Everyone who knew Sharleen had their own special story about her.
One Sunday afternoon I took Sharleen and her mother on a picnic at a park near the hospital. There we met an actress who was rehearsing some lines for a play to be presented in the park theater. After we all said hello, I asked if she would perform something for Sharleen.
In response to my request, she sang a song from the play, West Side Story.
“There’s a place for us…somewhere a place for us…
There’s a time for us…hold my hand and we’re half way there…
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there…”
Until the day of Sharleen’s funeral, I never knew her middle name was Grace.
I had heard about the word “Grace” many times. It means “Help given man by God.”
I am thankful for the “Grace” of hearing the sweet angelic voice of the actress who helped me understand Sharleen would soon find comfort in the arms of Jesus.
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