Before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I had a real fear of dying. I’m not referring to the process of dying. I’m talking about the matter of my no longer being here. Or the more disturbing questions, “Is there anything beyond physical death? Will I exist in some other way, some other dimension?” I’m not sure where these personal concerns came from, but it was real enough. I tend to think it had something to do with my friends and me riding our bikes through the local cemetery. This one particular cemetery, only a few blocks from my house, had the coolest gravel paths. We’d skid our bikes to see how far we could launch the rocks. Or we’d spin our tires to see if we could get a direct hit on a tombstone. Then there were those rare times when I would stop and read some headstones. Most provide the name of the deceased and the dates of that person’s life. Then there were those that had an epitaph, such as: “Here lies John Yeast, Pardon him for not rising.”
Despite attempts at humor in epitaphs, laying a loved one in the grave can create a tremendous internal struggle. As a child, it was troubling to observe gravestones that were of inferior quality, clearly showing the ravages of tempest and time. Names and dates often were no longer discernible. This would bring yet more disturbing questions to my mind: “Does anyone remember who is buried here? Will anyone remember me when I’m buried somewhere?”
Knowing that Jesus rose from the dead has brought hope and confidence that, just as he conquered death, every person who trusts in him will rise again to eternal life in heaven. As Paul said, “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” It would be like Paul saying, “Hey death! Jesus beat you! You don’t look so tough now!”
Last week my mother passed safely across that great divide into the arms of her Jesus. A few days before, while she was in the hospital on a Bi-PAP breathing machine, struggling, as her 98 year old body was slowly losing the battle, I read to her from the Bible. I then sang hymns and gospel songs. I finished with, “Jesus Loves Me,” at which point she looked at me and tried to talk through the cumbersome and uncomfortable forced-air mask covering her face. I leaned closer to try and make out what she was mouthing. As difficult as it was for her to speak at this point with this device restricting her speech, and struggling to breathe with lungs ever so slowly filling with fluid, she wanted to say something to me. She fixed me with that classic “mother’s look,” which says in so many words, “Pay attention! This is important.” Between breathes, she said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” She wanted to be sure that I knew she had heard me sing the song, and that those words echoed a resounding truth that resonates from one end of eternity to the other.
I will miss my mother, there’s no doubting that. On the other hand, what excites me the most is knowing that she is now enjoying precious, priceless moments hugging and kissing the two children she never got to know in this life. Her first child, Daniel, was still-born. Her third, Judy, had spina-bifida and only lived a couple of weeks. Today such a condition could be treated, but not so in 1946.
My daughter Laura shared one of those special moments treasured by all parents (and grandparents). My mother was called Grams by her grandkids and great grandkid. So on Sunday night after Grams went to be with Jesus, Laura was having prayer time with six-year-old Alyssa before bed. Alyssa prayed “that Grams would be loved in heaven just like she was loved here.”
Knowing that Grams has died has raised many questions coming from Alyssa. Laura says she believes she covered the answers to those questions pretty well, but they are always a challenge to adults when coming from children. Then Alyssa told her mom that she wants to be with Grams when she dies!
The promise of God for Christians is stated clearly in Revelation 21:4. “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Add to that the new body which each will receive, a body created and designed by God never to tire, or wear out, but is made for eternity, and you’ve got a hope in the future that simply can’t be beaten.