Remembering My Friend Sahara
It was the last day of my medical career. I was leaving to become a full time pastor. A couple of years earlier, I became the founding pastor of a church, and working at an urgent care clinic supplemented my pastoral income. It was late in the day when I walked into the exam room to see my last patient. It was Sahara.
She wasn’t feeling very well, and as we talked I somehow told her about the changes happening in my life. When she realized that I was a pastor, our conversation changed. Without prompting, she began telling me about the train wreck that was her life, and how she was ready for a change… any change. Long story short, she left the clinic with more than a prescription for her illness. She left with a new relationship with Christ. That was the day our friendship began.
Sahara holds the title of being the most unique human being I’ve ever known. You didn’t meet Sahara… you experienced her. She was absolutely full of life. Her personality was infectious, and because of her newfound faith, the trajectory of her life immediately changed. When we met, she was a music student at the School of the Arts. She played the trombone. When it came time for her senior recital, we went to hear her play. She walked onstage for her solo wearing a full bodied chicken outfit. It was yellow with a hood, and she stuck the mouthpiece of her trombone inside the beak to play. It was surreal- the rest of the musicians were wearing tuxedos. That was Sahara.
Once Sahara found her faith, she immediately set out to inform the world, and her mission in life became telling her story to anyone that would listen (and anyone who didn’t care to listen, too). If you had a conversation with her, faith would come up. It became who she was. That was Sahara.
Like me, Sahara’s faith required her to pursue a new direction in life- ministry. She attended seminary, and that started a lifelong pursuit of ministry in whatever form and circumstance that opened up to her. I was proud and honored to be her pastor, and I often said that if I had 10 Saharas, I could change the world.
Life has put geographical distance between us recently, and social media has been our means of communication for the last few years. But I’ve watched her life from a distance, and there’s been no sign of slowing down. She has plowed ahead, changing anyone and everyone who was privileged to encounter her.
I learned this afternoon of her passing. I know no details except that she died in a car accident. It was a blow to my stomach and my heart when I read the news report. Thirty six years old is too soon to die. She was just getting warmed up in her ministry and in her life.
Yet I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who would be more at home in heaven. Her relationship with God (she habitually called him “Daddy”) was so intimate that I imagine she stepped into eternity without so much as a blink.
Her death leaves me with emotions that are at war with each other. I am numb with grief and sadness that she’s gone, yet there is peace that comes from knowing that this world never really was her home. Her passing seems almost natural, as if she is now where she has been created to be all along.
I hope God prepared everybody in heaven for her entrance, because the life of the party just arrived. So long for now, my sweet friend. I’m proud of the woman you were. You raised the bar for the rest of us.