Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Death is Not the End

Yesterday, on one of the most beautiful fall afternoons we've had this season, Jamie Wiley took one more breath in this world and stepped away. Her very next breath was taken in eternity. She went so quietly that Sam, sitting at her bedside, already grieving his loss, didn't realize she was gone.

In the short span of eleven days, Sam's world (and mine) spun out of control and, it seems, took on an orbit of its own. From the moment she slid to the ground because "my knees wouldn't hold me" to the moment when, instead of returning to the hospital to drive her home, I returned to help Sam decide about life-support, it's been a whirlwind of devastating surprise and tragedy. Even when we left her at Hospice House for the first time, we flirted with the idea that she might recover and come home again. Little more than twelve hours ago, we left her at Hospice House for the last time. 

This has been hard. 

It's not that we didn't know, at 85 years old, that her time was short. It's not that we feared death. We knew. We understood. What we feared was the surprise. What we feared was the living after.

Yesterday, I took Sam back to the home they've shared for decades and gathered her best clothes (her new blue jeans and favorite red gingham sleeveless shirt) to dress her one last time. As I sorted through her closet and rummaged through her drawers, Sam sat quietly on the end of the bed they'd shared, a stunned expression on his face. 

The grieving has begun, and life will never be the same again.

He knows it, and I do, too. Somehow, Sam will carry on, because that's the kind of man he is. His God has sustained him through the loss of a tiny baby daughter, through the tragic death of his brother, through struggles common to us all. Now, His God will sustain him through this greatest loss imaginable. The One who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" has neither left him nor forsaken him even once. 

Death seems so final.

It seems so final, and it is, in a way. Jamie will never again laugh with us or make the best biscuits in the world or bake her famous chocolate cake. Not in this world. Instead, she is in a place so rich that gold is used for gravel. The leaves on the trees have the power to heal the nations. There is no sorrow in that glorious place. No tears. No darkness. God, Himself, is all the light anyone will ever need. 

The description of heaven given in Revelation 21-22 is so beautiful, you should read it for yourself. It's a glorious place, and I am certain Jamie is there, because she turned her life over to the only Savior she ever needed, Jesus Christ, and trusted Him to do with her life as He saw fit. When he chose to take her home, she didn't argue a bit. She went. I imagine she's glad she did.

One day, maybe when we least expect it, our appointed time will come and we, too, will step into eternity. We, too, will meet the Lamb of God who has taken the sins of the world on Himself. We, too, will reach our eternal destination. 

We have a choice to make and it's the most important choice of all.

We can choose darkness or light. Forgiveness or not. Cleansing or not. Jesus or not.

The eternal destination of an "or not" decision is not one I want to consider, and you shouldn't either. Cleansing and restoration of all the sin and hurt in your life is one bent knee away. It's easier than it should be and hard only because we make it so. A loving heavenly Father longs for His children to come to Him. 

Just as Jamie chose the freedom of Christ, so, too, you can choose all He offers. Reach out to Him, admit your sin, and embrace His cleansing. It makes all the difference, in this world and in the next.

The loss Sam sustained yesterday is not the end of the journey. Today, from 1-3 pm, friends and loved ones will gather for visitation and the funeral that follows. We will celebrate the good times and laugh, then cry for our loss. We'll go home to try to live without her. In the midst of our sorrow, we'll celebrate the joy we knew and the reunion of which we are certain.

Your kindness in participating with us through this difficult time has been a surprise to me. I didn't understood it, at least not at first. What I've tried to do is what God does best, make beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) I'm taking your response as an affirmation of that effort. 

I invited you into our journey and you came. Thank you for joining us. Don't leave us now. There's more to come, and it won't all be hard. After sorrow, joy comes. I plan to share that with you, too. 

Here at the links to the others stories in this series: The eternal destinationThe VigilA Little Help from My FriendsKeeping My WordDeathbed Priorities, and Deathbed Priorities, part 2.  

#thisisnottheend #eternity #griefshared #JesusChrist