Saying Goodbye to Ali, Thanking God for His Gifts

Picture: Xiu Xiu, flickr, CC

Merryn and I lost a friend this week.

We first met Ali as she was battling ovarian cancer. We watched her fight that battle with remarkable perseverance, cheer, even cheekiness. And at first it looked like she’d won. But after a three-year reprieve another round came. Ali again fought hard, with joy as much as medical treatment. She called her numerous hospital visits ‘gallivants’, she christened her portable oxygen machine ‘Vera’ and dressed it in feathers, she stayed grateful and positive all the way through, taking smiling selfies from her hospital bed.

But on Friday Ali left us. And how her family and friends miss her now.

I was putting the finishing touches on my next book last week. And as it happens, I had written a story into it about Ali. I still remember the Friday night she recounted this event to us. Ali discovered a God who hears each prayer we whisper, and helped us learn a little more to trust Him.

Here’s the story as it read on Friday.

Bye for now, Ali. We miss you.

But we will see you again.


“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
Matthew 7:11

Merryn and I have a friend named Ali. We got to know Ali when she joined our Friday night prayer group looking for support during her battle with cancer. She soon became a friend, started praying herself, and began discovering who God is.

Ali’s taste in fashion and furnishing is exotic. Her flat is filled with fairies, feathers, crystals, and cheap-but-classy antiques. Browsing an antique shop one day, Ali came across a beautiful old Singer-style sewing machine—the manual kind, mounted on a table with a foot pedal. “God,” she prayed, “I’d love something like that for my place.”

God is a gift-giving God. He gives us food and joy, sunshine and rain, forgiveness and eternal life, the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares God the Father to earthly parents. If they—even though they’re fallen and selfish—know how to give their children good things, how much more so does God? Jesus wants us to know that as we pray for guidance or for a need to be met, our Father hears us.

But still, there’s a world of difference between asking God for a need and for an old sewing machine, don’t you think? Ali wasn’t praying for food, rent money, world peace, or even eternal salvation. Her request was a childlike wish to a God she was just becoming acquainted with. I’m not even sure how serious her prayer was.

A couple of days after her visit to the antique shop, Ali walked out her front door on her way to work and saw a pile of junk by the roadside. She stopped in amazement. There in front of her stood a beautiful old Singer-style sewing machine—the manual kind, mounted on a table with a foot pedal. On it hung a sign that read:

“Perfect condition—please take.”


Croydon Centre for Enlightenment

Ali (in green) with the rest of the ‘Friday night’ crowd in 2011


  • May 13, 2015
    Carolyn Denson

    Hi Sheridan and Merryn I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.

    The blog about Ali was beautiful. It’s reminded me that we ask God for all sorts don’t we and whinge when big asks are not met. How often though are the little requests answered but because we’re complaining about the big ones not being met we can miss the small answers of yes which in the long run are better for us.


  • May 14, 2015

    Hi Sheridan, I’m so sorry to read of your loss. Ali sounds like one of the mystically wonderful souls who bless us so much with their joyful outlook on life and general whimsy.

    Your story of the sewing machine brought tears to my eyes. Isn’t God so outrageous? He must have had a lot of fun with that gift. I can just imagine Ali having a lot of fun showing her Creator some of her magical creations.

    Keep hugging each other in these sad days.

    Grace and peace


    • May 14, 2015

      Thanks Ian. You’ve got Ali right, and I think you’ve got God right too. That must’ve been a fun stunt to pull :).

  • May 20, 2015

    Hi, Sheridan! Thank you for sharing Ali’s story. I’m so glad she came to know Christ through your group and friendships. What a gift her life must be to you all as you remember and celebrate her.


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