She was born with an extra chromosome and an extra-big heart. She was a grade ahead of me in school and sometimes sat on the pew behind me in church. She’d smile at me every time I’d see her and she’d “shhhh” me and my friend Ellen when we were too silly in student choir. She sang louder, loved bigger, and smiled brighter than anyone I’ve ever known.
The world would say she had a disability, but all I ever saw was ability. Ability to turn a bad day into a good one. Ability to look for the best in people and in situations. Ability to praise her Savior with absolute abandon and ability to stand firm with unshakeable faith.
The world would say she had special needs. But I’d just say she was special. Special to her family, her church, her friends. A special gift to anyone that needed a smile...a hug...just because. A special gift of light to an ever-darkening world. A special creation of God.
Ame is a part of every one of my memories from my home church as a child. I can remember one Sunday night a little less than 20 years ago, Ame was on the pew behind me and we stood to sing. And while I don’t remember the song we sang, I remember the way Ame praised. She sang louder and with more passion than anyone I’d ever heard in our traditional First Baptist Church. She didn’t care. She wasn’t insecure or worried what others might think. She just loved the Lord. And she wanted Him to know it. So she worshipped. I remember tears streaming down my face at the sound of her voice. Tears of joy and awe at the sound of the absolute purest worship I’d ever heard. Tears of sadness that I’d never let my heart or praise be that open to Jesus. Tears of hope that one day I’d hear that same sound multiplied by thousands surrounding the throne in Heaven.
Ame taught me a beautiful lesson that night and many times after that. She taught me what it was like to live with abandon. To praise with abandon. To love with abandon. To love like she loved. And boy, did she love.
She loved our church. She loved our pastor. She loved her friends. And their mamas. And their cousins. She loved everybody. Genuinely. Whole-heartedly. Unconditionally. But most of all, and above all, Ame loved Jesus.
And a few days ago, she got to meet Him. Face to face. The moment she’d no doubt waited for her entire life.
I can only begin to imagine what that moment was like for her as all of her faith finally became sight. As years of her praise being lifted up was suddenly being breathed into the face of her Savior. As physical limitations and recent sickness gave way to a wholeness of body and spirit like we can’t even begin to dream about. And I have to wonder in those moments who was smiling bigger - Ame or Jesus. I can’t even imagine the inexplicable joy she must have felt being in the presence of the One who created her, loved her, saved her, and ultimately healed her. I feel sure she’s praising Him big and loud and with every ounce of her being - how could it be any other way?
Ame’s life changed mine. Her faith strengthened mine. Her praise prompted me to lift mine too. Her joy gave joy. Her smile brought smiles. Her love was contagious. Ame’s life was a picture of the purest, child-like faith and love for Jesus. She was both a blessing and an example to many who will miss her dearly.
But I venture to say she won’t miss us too much. Because she’s where she always wanted to be, doing what she always wanted to do. Praising her Savior all the day long.