But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
“In Heaven there is joy beyond all telling.” That was one of the first things Fr. Larry said in his funeral homily. The sweet picture that popped into my head as I heard him say those words made my sad, heavy heart feel a little lighter. Back in October, I wrote a piece about a beautiful woman named Gina and her inspiring and faithfully courageous battle against cancer. Gina’s battle ended last month and her absence here on earth has left a big hole in the hearts of more people than I can count.
Now, you might find it odd that I would be writing about death, but here’s the thing, death and heaven are the ultimate joy and as much as we look forward to abiding with Christ for all eternity, most of us would prefer to join Him when we’re somewhere in our 90’s. We don’t want to miss weddings and graduations and grandbabies. We somehow think that dying young robs us of some of life’s greatest pleasures, when in fact the greatest pleasure imaginable can only be claimed in death. Joy beyond all telling…better than grandbabies…better than weddings…better than cheesecake and children’s giggles and anything we could imagine. Sounds so true when written…now if we can just convince our sad and grieving hearts that death is a good thing…not so easy is it!
I try my best to pass along words and ideas in this blog that help us figure out how to live…really live as a Child of God. Twice in my life I have been a witness to a woman being truly alive in Christ, and both times the final lesson was not about how to live but about how to die. 26 years ago my amazing mother said, “I’ve taught you all I know about how to live; now I’m going to try to show you how to die, so pay attention because it’s important!” As a 23 year old, I wasn’t ready for that lesson but I tried my best! I was trying hard not to worry about “my” stuff, like a wedding without her and grandbabies without her and all the other things I felt like I was being cheated out of by her death. But then I saw her courage, her faith, her trust and her surrender. Gina is the second amazing woman to teach me the lesson. When things got tougher, she just trusted bigger and prayed harder. In the case of both women, as the disease consumed them, they turned it around and reached out to others. Just a few days before she died, my father-in-law who is Gina’s uncle turned 90 and guess who showed up at his front door with a card and a gift…Gina! As my mom got sicker and sicker she wrote thank you notes to everyone who had touched her life or the life of her family. When many would have withered and withdrawn, they reached out with joy and kindness and blessings. They were teaching me about humble service right up till the very end.
A teenager asked me recently, “Why does God take the good people early!” I said, “I don’t know, but I think He teaches great lessons through death and if He only picked yucky people to take from this world we wouldn’t learn as much about how to live!” I think it’s a little like a major motion picture. If a director and a producer think they have a fabulously important film with a spectacular lesson that will touch everyone in an eternally profound way, they would want to pick powerful, attention grabbing actors. They would want the stars of the show to captivate us, open our eyes to the message and leave us changed by the experience. But then what? What do we do with the message? I think the greatest way to honor someone is to imitate the characteristics that made them great in our eyes. I think it’s important to stop every now and again and think about how we’re living. I will stop more often and see if I’m imitating Gina’s trust or Mom’s courage and strength. I’ll also be sure to remember on the days that I fall WAY short; I have a loving Father who is patient and forgiving and always ready to slather me with grace when I ask. He is the “joy beyond all telling” and He’s called each of us by name!
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, ask God to help you call to mind a quality or characteristic of someone you have loved and lost, then ask Him to show you how to put it to work in your life bringing honor to Him and the one you miss.
Blessings on your day!
Copyright 2013 Sheri Wohlfert