It's just a stuffed animal. Just a little white stuffed lamb, about seven inches tall, with white fur, black button eyes, furry black feet, and a little pink button nose. A child's plaything, a little girl's joy. So why does it move me so?
A picture enters my mind. I squint through the haze, seeking clarity. The photograph is now black and white, the blurriness gone. A little girl with long hair and a big smile. She wears a checkered coat and clutches to her chin this stuffed white lamb.
The girl is my sister at age four. From days of long ago, when we played and laughed and fought and shared a room. Long before the stresses of divorce and money worries and single motherhood etched lines deep into her face, around her eyes. Long before the struggles and fights began with her son. Long before he took her from us in her sleep. That was four years ago.
Mom went through old boxes this past month and set some things aside that she thought I might want. Pillowcases lovingly embroidered by my grandmother, who went to heaven the same year Judy did. Jewelry from years past. And the little white lamb.
I cannot stop looking at it, thinking of her. The one who missed me so much when I moved out of state. Who I argued with as Mom's health grew worse - why do you stay away? Because I can't bear to think of life without Mom! Little did we know that Judy would leave us first.
The one who left such a huge aching gap in our hearts and our lives. Even now when I see a woman with long sandy blond hair, my breath catches in my throat. Is it her? No, I remember, Judy isn't here. She is with Jesus now.
Some people just slip quietly, peacefully away in their sleep. Others are taken from us violently, leaving pain and questions and sobs and prison visits in their wake. I know Judy was glad to leave her life of worry, to find peace with her Savior. I only wish I had known it would be so soon.
So I am left behind, with grieving parents and a nephew imprisoned for life and far too few reminders of the little girl who was. The one my youngest daughter no longer remembers. Will I forget one day too? How many times did I dial her cell phone those first few weeks just to hear her voice on the recorded message? May I never forget!
I hold the little lamb close, and I look at her ring on my finger, and I resolve that my life will count. That it will be fully lived. Nothing reminds us not to waste our minutes like the life of a loved one taken rudely, much too soon.
Lord, capture my tears in Your bottle, and hug Judy for me. Tell her I can't wait to see her again, and help me to live wisely until that day.