“Lift your head, Isabelita.”
“You can do it!”
“Come on, Titi! We need you to lift your head…”
I stood in awe, watching my wife, her sister and their aunt encouraging the matriarch of their family to lift her head off the pillow of her bed in an intensive care unit to prove that she had enough strength for doctors to take out the tube from her throat that was helping her to breathe, but was otherwise making the rest of her life miserable over the last 48 hours.
Isabelita Ortiz was no stranger to overcoming adversity. One of 11 children born in Puerto Rico during World War II, she moved to Michigan in the 1960’s and earned a bachelors from Oakland University, teaching in Pontiac schools for over 30 years. When death and divorce brought havoc to her siblings’ families, she brought their children into her home, helping to raise 13 children and loving them as her own, including my wife and her sister. After dedicating her life to the Lord from an early age, Isabelita never married and went on to become a pastor, serving faithfully in a church dominated by men who were not always fond of the fiery passion she couldn’t help but share.
Yet this surgery to repair a broken valve in her heart had taken a heavy toll. As her family coached her on from the side of her bed, I could almost hear a voice inside of her respond back, “Stay down! Just rest and ignore them!”
My wife, Maritza, at our daughter’s graduation party with her aunt, Isabelita Ortiz (February 24, 1942 – September 22, 2019)
Tears filled my eyes as my aunt struggled to raised her head off the bed. In that moment, I felt and saw the love of God in the voice of her sister and nieces. It was not just their love for their aunt that moved me, but His love for her too. Not only is He constantly calling us upward, He puts people in our life who encourage us when we need it most. Sometimes the weight of the world can fog our vision, dull our senses, and take away our strength to get up. But He is still there, waiting for us, calling us. His love can be seen through people who show up in unexpected ways, sometimes small and other times huge. That has been my life, especially these last few weeks as we ultimately brought our aunt home where she made her transition into everlasting life.
I share this experience with you to encourage you in God’s love and to ask you to take a moment to think about how you can share His love with someone you know in need of that encouraging friend today.
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