Have you noticed the lilac bushes are in bloom? In the Midwest every spring in early May the streets and yards are lined with beautiful purple fragrant lilacs. Perhaps you grew up with a Common lilac, Persian lilac, Dwarf Korean variety, Himalayan, Chinese lilac or even a lilac tree. My sister Linda Kay Doyle had a beautiful white lilac bush that she cherished. It was an exceptionally fragrant lilac in her yard, just off her deck. My sister Linda died 10 years ago today, May 5 2005. She was an avid gardener and whenever I would visit her home, we would walk arm and arm around her yard to explore what was currently in bloom.
Linda was an educator who was very compassionate and cognizant about the surrounding world. She was always giving me fiction and non-fiction books that would get me thinking. We had long conversations about the underlying theme of books such as the Kite Runner and The Red Tent. The week before she passed she urged me to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle.
Hotel Rwanda is the story of the 1994 horrific genocide that took the lives of one million people who were brutally murdered in Rwanda, Africa. In an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In three months, one million Tutsis; men, women and children were massacred by the hands of the Hutu marauders. The movie shared the courage of one man who in the face of unspeakable dangers granted shelter to thousands of helpless refugees in the hotel that he managed.
I never had the chance to chat with Linda about her thoughts on the Rwanda genocide. And yet, two years after she passed, I learned about a woman who survived that genocide and knew that I had to hear her story. Immaculee llibagiza was a Tutsis college student, who was urged to go into hiding by her father. Immaculee found shelter at a pastor’s home, where she and seven other women hid from the deadly rebel mob in a 3-by-4 foot bathroom for 91 days. During those 91 days of unimaginable suffering, Immaculee found her faith, taught herself English and most incredibly, committed herself to a life of peace, hope and forgiveness. Even for those who had murdered her family.
Last week, I was privileged to attend a luncheon entitled “Aid for Women” and the keynote speaker was again Immaculee. She again shared her powerful life lessons from her Rwanda experience of love, forgiveness and world peace. The organization she spoke was in support of Aid for Women, which has been instrumental in providing support for women and especially empowering women to choose life. They provide funding to Heather’s House, a home for unwed mothers providing education, medical assistance, spiritual and housing support. You can read more about their organization at www.helpaidforwomen.org. You can read one of Immaculee’s several books or watch this short video about her story.
Linda placed an enormous value on the inner strength within a women and the bond of friendship between women. Considering Linda’s own health limitations, nothing held her back and I knew she drew strength from faith, friendship and family. Where do you draw strength to be the women God intended you to be? How do you age gracefully and rest within the challenges of your life, the body we have been given and live within our unique giftedness? How do the relationships in your life help you to fly? Helping women explore these questions have become my life work. Thank you, Linda!!!!