The years grew and the illness grew with it. It turned out to be diabetes, the kind that required a lot of care. In those days little was known about the illness and you were at the mercy of it. By the eighth grade it was common to wait for her after school and she wouldn't show up. Running into the office to find out what happened, the message was usually the same. She passed out in class, the ambulance was called, and Erna was in the hospital once again.
She didn't go on to college. She didn't have the strength. Instead, she relied on God for all her needs. And He cared for her. Her life was a living testimony of grace under pressure. Who knows how many lives she touched.
Every year about this time I think about Erna. The last time I saw her she was in her 30s. I spotted the white cane and put my hand on her shoulder. "Erna, this is Linda. How are you doing?" My old friend was just like always. She touched me back. "Linda, I have good news. I'm going home for Christmas. I won't last out the year."
A few months later I read in our hometown paper that she had passed. I think of her every year about this time and how glad she was to go home for Christmas. Someday, I'll get to go home, too, Erna. Merry Christmas.