Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Little Light of Mine...

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Many years ago, during the midst of an ugly divorce, God placed in my path an amazing new friend. Sweet Hopkins. Sweet was the children's minister at the church I was attending at the time. If there is one word I would use to describe her, it would be dynamic. She was a tiny thing. I had about two inches on her, if that gives you any idea. But she had the spirit and tenacity of a giant. When I hear the phrase, "Great things come in small packages," I think of Sweet.

The first time I met Sweet, she wore an obnoxiously bright red and pink flowered scarf around her head. What I didn't know at that time was that she had just finished her final round of chemo. Which came in a full package deal that included radiation, a full mastectomy, and a stem cell transplant. Her skin was grey with dark circles under her eyebrowless eyes. She walked determinedly, but slow. Her energy obviously low. In spite of her delicate and sickly frame, one could not miss the attitude and spunk with which she lived her life. Cancer might slow her down, but it wasn't going to KNOCK her down.

The second time I met Sweet, was at a camp counselors meeting about a year later. She had emailed and asked me to join her team of volunteers to take upwards of 100 elementary students to Camp Lebanon for a week long Children's Summer camp. She said she'd make it easy on me and let me go with the "little girls", the 3rd graders, most of which had never been away from their parents for a whole week themselves. I was petrified! My divorce had just finalized a few week's earlier. I had been struggling with how not only would I never have children in my barren state, but now I wasn't even married anymore. And now I was being asked to join a bunch of little girls for summer camp? While a part of me screamed in emotional pain at the thought being around kids for that long, a part of me felt a very deep need to please Sweet. Why I don't know, but I ignored my internal whining and said yes.

What transpired in that week of Children's Camp was a change in my heart. The girls were darling. They did much to heal my broken spirit with their sweetness and silliness. Not only did God heal my heart through those precious little girls, but through my new friend Sweet. Sweet was not one of those coddling, mothering types of women. She was tough. She would give hugs freely and lovingly and not one child or counselor ever felt anything but pure love from this woman. But we all also knew not to pull anything on her. She was sharp and wouldn't put up with any shenanigans from student or counselor. Her advice to all of us while we were there: Don't do anything stupid! We were all very intent on following her advice if it killed us! Nobody wanted to disappoint Sweet. I also finally had the gift to hear her amazing story of beating breast cancer, firsthand. At that time she was in full remission. I just remember thinking that if Sweet could battle for her life with the fortitude she demonstrated, then I could fight what few battles I had in my life. The question was, could I do it with the grace that Sweet did?

Several years go by and cancer again attacked Sweet's body. This time a little more extensively and with a lot more force. But in typical Sweet fashion, it was fought against and she won. Again.

A few more years go by, her kids are grown and in college. Her life still revolves around the children's ministry at church. The cancer returns. Almost with an angry vengeance. It was in her liver and her bones. With time, it's obvious that the aggression of the cancer was not going to be beat. The family decides to let hospice take care of Sweet in her last days.

A year ago today, Sweet Hopkins finally went home. While the rest of us mourned our loss on earth, the Heavens danced with her arrival. With that mental picture, I cannot help but smile. I remember watching her sing and dance at the camp talent shows with all of the kids...

"This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Looking back, I think that was what was so attractive about Sweet. As corny as it sounds, she couldn't help but let her light shine. It was bigger than her. It wasn't meant to be contained by her tiny little body. Honestly, it's not meant to be contained in any of our bodies, no matter how big or strong. So again, I'm forced to ask myself, can I do this like Sweet?

1 comment:

Tara said...

Loved this post, A. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I have been singing this to my kids (and C especially likes the verse about hiding it under the "bushes" NO!). It's a hard task for me lately, being so housebound with 2....

Sweet sounds like a lovely lady. I'm sorry for your loss.