A number of days ago my younger sister, Elisabeth Jobes, was taken to hospital unconscious and unable to breathe. For 18 hours the medics did their utmost, some refusing to go home at the end of their shifts, opting instead to stay and help – even a whole department refused to close for the night. For an equal amount of time an ever increasing number of friends turned the waiting room and hospital corridors into a prayer centre. We took communion in the intensive care waiting room, united not by our membership of any church – four different churches were represented – but of the body of Christ. Across the world people prayed together and sent messages of support via social networks and our pastors who were there with us. Lizzie lost her earthly fight but won her heavenly race and her impact on people’s lives has been phenomenal. Already we have seen some of her friends make decisions to follow Christ, people returning to God, and a huge sum raised to help the fight against Human Trafficking. (In lieu of flowers donations were given, and can be given, to the A21 Campaign.) Before normal service resumes on this blog, I decided it would be fitting to post the text of the tribute I gave at her funeral. (A newspaper report and tribute, written by Lindsay Bruce, can be viewed here.)
Some people have two personas. You’ve no doubt heard of Jekyll and Hyde but I’m going to talk about someone who had two personalities – not good and bad but good and better. I’m going to tell you about my sister and the saint. In recent days I’ve came to see quite how much these two personas were actually one and the same.
My sister, or Betty to me, was born on the 18th September 1990. I met her birth with tears, in embarrassingly large quantities. Don’t be mistaken – these weren’t tears of joy, I just really wanted a brother. She sadly died two weeks ago and I met her death with many more tears because for the twenty one years of her life, I loved my baby sister.
She was the one who didn’t bother with crawling, she skipped straight to the walking stage. We were blessed in that she decided not only to walk on her feet but also to walk in God. And so she grew up – and she really did grow. I have many fond memories of the simple things we did, like practicing street hockey in the back lane and letting her win to make her day fun. – At least that’s the official line, no one ever wants to credit a seven year old girl with the ability to smack a hockey puck past them.
The thing with Betty was she always saw the best in everything. She determinedly looked at the positives and was always smiling, even when the rest of us were thinking something wasn’t much fun she could manage to see a good side. I remember her comic little phrase when she was a tween, ‘salalu-salaway’. I don’t to this day know why, it was just her quirky thing she invented to say she was happy with something. I have many happy memories of her from day trips and holidays and many more from day to day life.
I could talk about Betty and our memories for hours but many of you here knew Lizzie J. Lizzie, it would turn out was a saint. Intelligent, creative, beautiful. She was always the kind of girl who would strive to make sure her life was a good one, she would ask advice and was never one to shy from the tough choices if something was for the best. She wasn’t just good in the sense that she tried to follow the rules; ticking boxes didn’t matter to her, impacting lives did. She shared the gospel with zeal and a passion not just for the house of God but for God himself. My recurring memory of her is from a few weeks back at church. She wasn’t ‘serving’ on team that day, but she was serving anyway. Bounding around the foyer in the centre for life, smiling and bubbling with people. She didn’t serve because of any obligation, her service was the overflow of a heart that bubbled with irrepressible joy. – I know this because my many efforts to find what substance she was taking so I could be that happy too were always in vain, it was natural joy.
The main lessons that I’ve been taught by this amazing woman of God are love. She hit it right on that, while I wondered how best to share my faith she was using her love and compassion to help bring the lost home. She just loved people, even in the most adverse circumstances she found the best in people and the reason to love them. In hard times when it would have been so easy to be sullen and moody she instead loved life, loved God and loved people. I’ve never met someone who gave out as much love and who asked so little in return.
At times of great grief the question that comes to mind is why. Why? That question is not one that we will ever fully know, but in Lizzie’s death I don’t question the existence of God, rather God has shown himself in many ways. I don’t know why it was my Sister’s time but every time I pray to him about why Lizzie could possibly go I get one verse. Philippians 1:6 tells us that…
‘The God who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’
It is the day of Christ Jesus for Lizzie now. Which means that we can be confident that the God who begun a good work in Lizzie perfected it. Typical Lizzie, she reached it before us all. This does not take away the pain but it is a fact, and I report it as such in the knowledge that when the pain fades that fact will remain.
At 3:20 on Thursday morning Elisabeth Ruth Jobes arrived in heaven surrounded by the prayers of the global church. Matthew 25:34-40 says…
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
…Lizzie was dedicated to doing everything for the least of these. When so many people surrounded her with prayers it bore witness to God that her life had done just that and we get to live in the security that Jesus said ‘come into my kingdom’.
As prayers and support have flooded in we have realised the strength, depth and love of the church community. I will always be grateful to the church for praying and supporting both as we were in hospital and in the aftermath, it means an awful lot to us the love that has been shown, it’s an honour to be part of a community that does that.
It turned out that the sister and the saint were the same person. The impact my little sister’s life has had will live on alongside the memories she left us. I will honour the saint and cherish the sister. No amount of goodness that flows from events will make the pain worthwhile but it will stand us in eternal memory of her life and what she did. Thank you for coming to honour my sister and for the impact so many of you had on her life. We love you, Elisabeth, and we will see you soon and spend eternity united with our king.