I don’t remember when Anna and Elizabeth Hastings became permanent fixtures in the St. Louis congregation, but I do remember coming to realize there was a big hole when they weren’t there.
We expected to see Anna coming in the door, pushing her daughter’s wheelchair and depositing their belongings on the front row. And we had also come to expect Liz’s smile, which literally lit up the room, as she greeted first one and then another.
Brethren made sure to get a “Liz fix” before leaving services. She was such a vibrant part of our congregation. When she felt good, everyone felt good. And when she was having a bad day, we all left feeling a little low—as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12:26 1 Corinthians 12:26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.
American King James Version×: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”
In a recent letter, Anna asked me to pass on some things about her daughter. Liz was 14 months old when they found out she had cerebral palsy. “She was a beautiful child in heart, mind and body, and always had a beautiful smile,” Anna wrote. “Liz was never able to talk except for a few words and sentences, but she understood everything she heard. She could never walk alone, only with the help of the arms of another person holding her up. So she was confined to a wheelchair or a chair made especially to fit her body.”
One might think that someone so physically challenged could offer very little to others. Liz proved that wrong. “Her heart went out to people… When they were sad, hurting or had problems, she always tried to give comfort the best she could—holding their hands or listening. When they cried, she cried, and when they laughed, she laughed.” (Brethren in St. Louis know that Liz’s own hearty laugh and expressions of delight were highly contagious!)
Anna mentioned her daughter’s love of giving gifts, like handmade cards, even though it took her a very long time to laboriously print her message and sign her name. “She loved God’s people, and her happiness was seeing the happiness of others,” her mother wrote. “God, in His kindness, gave her the gifts of loving and caring.”
At age 48 Liz received some devastating news. She had ovarian cancer and the doctors gave her six months to a year to live. In spite of such a blow, Anna and Liz continued to take their places on the front row as often as they could make it.
Her health began to deteriorate. She suffered several strokes, and ultimately was ravaged with a stubborn infection that led to gangrene, and the amputation of both legs. Our congregation grieved and prayed with every downturn. Finally on June 15, 2004, at age 501⁄2, God gave her and her family release from all the suffering.
During this ordeal, numerous prayer requests went out, and the Hastings received hundreds of cards. Anna worried that they could not express their appreciation to each individual. She decided the best way was to share a little of Liz’s life, and the following expression of her gratitude:
“I am Elizabeth’s mother, and I would like to thank all of you for the many prayers and cards that she and we, her parents, were blessed to have… She was a unique young lady, and we miss her very much. She’s in God’s hands waiting for the resurrection. We can’t wait until we see her again and her beautiful new healed body. May God speed the day when Christ returns to make all things new. Thank you all, brethren, for your love, prayers, concern and kindness. We will never forget that, and you. Sincerely, Anna Hastings.”