I cannot believe that my heart was broken so badly eight years ago. She had fought cancer for only a year and she was gone. There are no words I can further share for the grief I have known since my twin sister, Denise, passed away June 27, 2014. It was 10:07 pm when she breathed her last breath. I walked into her room at 10:08 pm, a number that for many years seemed to follow me.
Every night before I would go to bed, I would always look at the clock on my nightstand and see that it was 10:08 pm. For some reason, this went on for over twenty years: 10:08 pm; 10:08 pm; 10:08 pm. Since Denise died, I rarely see 10:08 pm any more. It’s not known to me if God was preparing me for June 27, 2014 at 10:08 pm to see that she had died, but I do find it coincidental, or as a friend of mine used to say, “God-cidental!”
Denise had dwindled physically. She withered away from cancer and chemotherapy. Sometimes I think I’m not sure which is worse: the cancer or the “cure.” She was a beautiful woman inside and out. She had her moments, of course, as we all do. She could be equally as moody as I, but she was loved by so many people as was seen at her memorial service. There were over 400 present for her service. I shall never forget this fourth grader who wanted to meet me at the end of the service. She remembered that I had come to Denise’s second grade class to read two years before on our birthday as was my custom for many years. She said, “In all my life, Ms. Yambra was my favorite teacher and I just had to come today to say goodbye to her one last time.” I hugged her and she thanked me for reading to her class on our birthday. Her dad told me that when she read Denise’s obituary she cried and cried and told him that she had to come to the service for her favorite teacher.
I have pictures from my sister. One of the pictures is of two students who were graduating from Baylor University–Denise’s alma mater. They both went through her second grade class one of those years she taught. They invited her to their graduation and there’s Ms. Yambra standing with university graduates who were in one of her second grade classes.
A couple of weeks before Denise died, her principal and the administrative staff came to see her and to bring her personal effects from her classroom to her. After they left, Denise said to me, “Twenty-five years of teaching wrapped up in three boxes.” I was shocked to hear those words and they broke my heart to see her so saddened that she was no longer able to teach second graders. I retorted, “Denise, it’s twenty-five years wrapped up in over 500 students that you’ve taught and to whom you’ve ministered!” She smiled at me and simply said, “Thank you, Den.”
June is always a difficult month for me, especially as June 27th comes around. I just have so many memories running through my head of growing up with my twin sister. She was so creative and she was musical. She loved to sing and to dance and to play. She spent a lot of time alone because she was dreaming of things and creating drawings and singing to the radio. She knew so many songs when I cannot even remember the names of songs or lyrics at all!
She certainly is not forgotten by me or by many others. I receive text messages or phone calls every June 27th but I generally don’t answer them. It’s just too difficult still–even after eight years.
At first I felt like half of me was gone. People would ask how I was doing and I would ask them, “How do you think you’d feel if half of you was gone?” That’s how I felt then and that’s still how I feel at times today. There’s so much more that I wish we could have done together. I wish Denise could see her nephews and how grown up they are. I’m sure she would spoil them. The first time she met them they were six and two years old. She loved my two Sons and was ever so proud when we adopted them ten years ago this year. I’m so glad she was able to see them for at least two years and to love on them as she did. Always the teacher, always answering their questions, always showing them new things through art, nature, science, math, etc. The consummate second grade teacher she was. Our sister Dina still does the same thing with them and it brings back so many memories of Denise as they are both teachers.
My heart still is broken over her death, but I know it is inevitable that all of us will face the same fate. All of us will eventually die and others will mourn and weep our deaths. And some of us know that although those whom we love are gone from this earth, we will see them again. This is our hope. This is why we do not grieve like others. I miss her. I miss hearing her voice. For some reason, I just cannot hear her voice even in my memories and that bothers me, but I know I will hear her voice again. I know that while I do not see her now, I will see her in glory–in heaven.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in vicotry. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
I know that Denise died physically on June 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm, but I know she lives today. And this is what gives me hope of seeing her again. She won the battle because she believed in Jesus Christ who conquered death for us. Yes, her body died, but her soul lives on in heaven. She is there! She’s alive! Half of me is not truly gone! I have hope! I grieve not as those who have no hope! I have hope because Jesus Christ conquered death and gave Denise victory and if He gives her victory then He gives me and any who believe in Him victory!
So June 27th will most likely still be a hard day, but it will not be a day like it was in 2014. It will be a day to rejoice–but I still won’t answer my phone or texts that day. I have to maintain my own soul care on difficult days like June 27th. I have hope because Denise is fully alive!