One of the things I always try to do at the beginning of a new year is to look back over the previous year with an eye toward the blessings that stand out as markers on my life's journey. I am aware that every day is loaded with blessings, many of which I am likely blind to, but some blessings come with such power and impact they become etched into memory for all time.
One of the greatest blessings of 2012 for me was re-connection with Nancy Norton. Nancy and her husband, John, served as missionaries to Japan for thirty years, or more, but just about a year ago, while they were still in Japan, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer (uterine, I think). As a continuation of her witness to the Japanese people, she remained in Japan to receive treatment. However, after surgery and a few months of chemotherapy, the cancer was not responding to treatment. Nancy and John left Japan and returned to Birmingham where Nancy began treatment at UAB. She fought a valiant fight to conquer the cancer, but ultimately, it won the battle for her physical life, but of course, she lives on in heaven because she knew Jesus as her personal Savior and Lord.
Throughout the year Nancy (and sometimes John, or one of her sons) posted updates on her Caring Bridge site. Her faith and testimony during this time came through eloquently in her posts. She was a beautiful human being, outwardly and inwardly. I met Nancy in 1992 when she was a student in my Biblical Greek class, and we became friends. While we didn't correspond regularly, our mutual affection was a constant, and my life was deeply touched by her journey through this last year of her life. Only those who love deeply can suffer deeply, and I have suffered in my heart and spirit as Nancy struggled, but I wouldn't take anything for the joy of having known her and been blessed by her life. I did honor her final request that those who loved her would "sing her to heaven", and I find peace in knowing that she is with the Lord she loved and served so faithfully. Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord: And let light perpetual shine upon her.