I’m sitting in a dark living room, the only light is the spotlight of sun through the sliding glass window, shining down on this woman I met two minutes ago and yet I feel like I’ve known her for years. Her big blue eyes smiling at me as if she knows everything I’m thinking and she’s ok with it. Her grey, pixy hairstyle outlines her face and just below are the tubes that give her oxygen. That help her stay alive..that try to fill what little room she has left in her lungs.
Ronnie was told several weeks ago she has three to six months to live. She has breast cancer and it’s spread to her lungs. I’m here because I was assigned to find “amazing women” in St Louis. When I posted my assignment on my Facebook page I immediately had at least three posts with Ronnie’s name in them. They told me to read her blog. I did. “Glass Half Full” is the name of it.
Her last post that day read: “I have been told I have three to six months left to live. I have decided to document this in one photo per day (most days I should say). The only rule, the photo should be the opposite of dying. I hope you find it inspirational. I am making memories and living life to its fullest. I smile most of the time. My glass is certainly half full, if not runneth over. I wish the same for each of you.”
And as I scroll down I see pictures of her at a winery, another with her family another with her mother. Picture after picture of Ronnie. Smiling. Glowing.
So now I’m here for the interview. Not with Ronnie. I’m here to interview her three daughters and her mother and sister. But only her two 13 year old twin daughters could make it. Ronnie will be on the show live with me a week from yesterday and she’s bringing her sister and husband. This will be the story that runs right before her live interview.
Ronnie says she wants to sit outside for the interview. She wants to sit in the sun. This takes some time. She can’t walk without the support of a chair she pushes. Her aunt helps with portable oxygen machine. As we make it through the hall approaching the front door, I tell Ronnie I read a comment on her blog from a young girl in high school. “She said she had never felt like she could be herself in front of anyone in her life.” My voice starts to break. “until she met you.” Ronnie just grins from ear to ear. I want to tell her I know what she means.
We make it out to the chairs in her front yard. She is spent. Bent over trying to gasp for air. Should I just tell her we can come back another day? But after several minutes, she gains strength. And I start asking the girls about their mom and why she is an “amazing woman.” They say she teaches them to share their feelings, to enjoy every day together, that she’s strong. That they feel blessed to be able to grieve with their mom instead of her being taken unexpectedly. Not one tear. They are so comfortable.
Ronnie says her mother is on her way. I decide to interview Ronnie while we wait. She doesn’t hesitate. She tells me she’s not afraid. She says her goal is to die with grace. Die. With. Grace. Those words have stuck with me ever since that hot September day.
And this week..for the first time I think I may be able to understand what she meant and why she was able to strip the insecurities and guards from anyone in her presence. She didn’t mean she wanted to die gracefully. She was dying with grace. With favor. With thanksgiving. Every minute, breath, conversation. Every “I love you.” Every smile, hug, morning. Every meal, sunset..EVERYTHING!!!! IT IS ALL A GIFT.
But those aren’t just gifts for the dying. They are gifts for the living! And Ronnie wanted people to open their eyes and see all that God gave them. Every. Day.
And this grace thing. This favor thing. Has a big secret. You see God actually tells us to be thankful first and for everything..even for the bad stuff. But that’s not the secret. The secret is what happens afterward. When we start to see what we have..we start to see God and love and that brings peace. And that’s why He tells us to give thanks. It’s for us!
Ronnie didn’t want people to wait until they were at the end of their lives to discover that secret. That’s why she started her blog. She wanted them to live with grace. And experience the peace she had. And the only reason she wanted to be on Great Day with me was to share how to do that. Ronnie never made it on our show to explain it. She died the morning she was to be on Great Day. But that amazing woman..that ray of light helped me see the path that led me to this gift…this gift of peace. God’s favor.
Thank you, Ronnie.