by Brittany Koepke, on mission in Guayaquil.
“In this mission, we share all aspects of life with our friends. The good times…and the hard times. The joyful times…and the sorrowful times.
Not long ago, we were all blindsided with the news that a very close friend of ours, Señora Gertrudes, passed away. This news was especially shocking because just the night before she died, Señora Gertrudes was dancing at our house for Julia´s goodbye party. (Julia was a fellow missionary that lived with me.) When I heard this news, I immediately thought of all the plans I had hoped to do with Señora Gertrudes-the book by Scott Hahn I still had not lent her, the movie she invited me to watch with her, and the feeling of I wish I would have visited her more or at least gotten to say goodbye. But these were my plans and my “wish I could haves.” I was reminded, yet again, of the concrete truth that our lives and the time we are given are completely in God´s hands. And every breath is a gift from Him.
Señora Gertrudes did not live what most would call an easy life. But her last days here with us were lived well. Señora Gertrudes was a catechist at our parish and the day before she passed away she concerned herself with the kids´ First Communion that were soon to take place. She gave a generous donation to the church for flowers to decorate for the First Communion. And the night before she passed away she was surrounded with all her friends at our house gathered to send Julia back to her Austrian homeland with a dance party. It is no secret that Señora Gertrudes was a woman that loved to dance. And she got her last dance.
Many tears were shed. The hardest times were the days following her death when we visited her teenage children in their home…without their mother there. There are not words to say. But as I came alongside her daughter cooking calmly at the stove, she immediately reached out to embrace me and we both began to cry. I had not been super close friends with her daughter beforehand in all honesty and that is why her sobs on my shoulder reminded me of the importance of this mission of compassion. This cross for their family is not one we can take away. But we can be with them at the foot of their cross-as a presence, as a friend, as a literal shoulder to cry on, as a gift of consolation that they are not alone in their mourning.”