Madeleine was the one who led me to Christ that summer so long ago at Vacation Bible School. She was the adult that I could have gone to if I had something that I "couldn't discuss" with my mother. I don't think I ever did but it sure was comforting knowing that there was someone that I could trust with anything. She was somebody that I could count on.
Today Madeleine is having a mastectomy. After suffering for the past years from a debilitating disease (Parkinson's) she now has breast cancer. Tears flow down my face as I think of this sweet, caring, selfless woman and the suffering that she has endured over the past years. Thoughts of "it's NOT FAIR!" and questioning why good people suffer creep into my mind. Yet as soon as these thoughts begin a vision of how Madeleine would respond to these questions chases away the questions of doubt.
"Oh, it's okay, kid!" she'd say, shrugging off the suffering as if it was a nuisance to even speak about and then giving me a big smile. She always called everyone kid. She always smiled.
We moved away from that small Iowa town when I was fifteen so I've only seen Madeleine a handful of times over the past 30 years. But a few years ago I visited and had the opportunity to witness the sweetest act of servitude. A large group of my parent's friends had meet at a restaurant for lunch after church. There were too many of us to fit at the same table so I had the privilege of sitting at a smaller table with Madeleine and her husband. I left that day with a heart full of gratitude and love for this couple. During our meal I watched Madeleine, the one who was always serving others, being served by her husband. It was the most beautiful thing (next to her constant smile) I have ever witnessed. In her husband I saw patience and a love that turned this tough, manly-man into a tender and compassionate caregiver. In Madeleine, despite the fact that her husband was helping feed her, I saw this incredible joy, joy which radiated from her constant smile. My friends, that beautiful image will remain in my memory forever.
I don't know why Madeleine has been living a life of great suffering but I do know God has a plan. Maybe that plan is to allow others to serve Madeleine, repaying her for all those years of serving others. Maybe her suffering is an example for some who needs to learn how to suffer well.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I don't know why she suffers but I do know that my life has been forever changed by an amazing woman named Madeleine.