Loss. Sorrow. Grief. In the last week or so, there have been numerous implosions of sadness around me. A high school friend sat at the bedside of her dying daughter who was buried today. A long time friend said goodbye to her father for the last time. Another friend, in Oregon, received a call this week notifying him that his mother had suddenly passed following a hip fracture. At this moment, my oldest and dearest friend's father lies in a hospital in Ohio, demanding to go home. When he does, hospice workers will accompany him in order to provide comfort measures for however much time he has left. I have two dear friends awaiting test results, knowing well the results could bring their worst fears or their greatest hopes. Another friend suffers a different kind of loss. The failure of hope, because someone she loves has disappointed her, again. Sadness comes in all shapes and sizes. One size does not fit all.
We cling so tightly to this life. Most likely when mine comes to an end, I too, will struggle to hold on in order to stay just a little bit longer. We have lives we love, people we don't want to leave behind. I am no exception, but, I do believe, in my heart of hearts, that when I have crossed over to my heavenly home, all the concerns that made me want to stay--the unfinished business, the hopes not yet realized, the goals not achieved, they will all pale in comparison to what I will know there as I sit at the feet of Jesus. We who walk this earth hold so tightly to dreams we want to see fulfilled. A child grown into a man. An education completed. A baby born. A wedding ceremony performed. A family at peace. These are the dreams we live for. They are worthy pursuits and when realized may bring unspeakable happiness. But they are imperfect dreams, and we who travel this planet, cannot conceive of dreams more precious, dreams more exquisite; dreams of heaven, perfect dreams realized.
When my own father was dying in a hospital, I, long before my siblings and my mother were able to acknowledge it, knew that the end was most assuredly near. I knew too much. It's not that sorrow didn't apply to me. It surely rocked my heart to the core. But, I didn't ask why. I know that the same God who gives, takes away. I know that there's never a good or right time. I acknowledge that it's easier to let go when a life has been long and well lived and more difficult when it's early- in what we see as an unfinished life. Still. I cling to the belief that life here is not life in it's entirety. There is more. I believe that as surely as I believe the sun will rise and fall everyday. I honestly don't believe anyone who has prepared for eternity by accepting Jesus' gift of salvation, has ever arrived in heaven and wanted to come back to this life. Heaven is richer, more beautiful and more joyous than our finite minds can grasp. One does not move from the ghetto to the palace and then ask to return the utter poverty they were rescued from.
The greatest sadness for me is not the loss of one's presence here on earth. That, because, I believe there is a life beyond. The greater sorrow is if that one has not prepared for the life beyond earth's borders. One's eternal destiny is the most important goal of all and one that requires our attention now, while we still have time to determine where we will spend it. A life lived only for pleasure and temporal things is a life ignorant of true meaning, a life cut short too soon, whether 16 or 96 years long. To share that truth with those who don't know, is a sacred and critical responsibility. The gift of God is eternal life, available to all who will believe. As one who has gratefully received that gift, I am responsible to share it with others as the Lord provides opportunity.
If you, dear reader, long to know what it is that gives me this hope--the hope that takes away death's sting, I long to share it with you. I cannot tell you you will not face sorrow. I cannot promise that. I still cry bitter tears. I still have a dread of life without those I love most. I still pray for healing and reconciliation and the end of pain. But, in the end, I know. I know that one day, on the other side, the pain will end, the tears will be wiped away and death will be no more. Because Jesus said so. And I believe it.
I do love this life I've been given. I truly do. I am blessed beyond anything I ever imagined. But, when my time comes, don't grieve for me. Don't call me back. I'll wait for you. Be there.