Vol. 6, No. 9
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
~ Page 16 ~
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1)
We stopped by the hospital to see her tonight. Family and a few close friends surrounded her. She was so thin and pale. Her wig delicately perched on top of her tiny frame as always. It was the most pronounced thing I noticed about her. If I hadn't known better it would have seemed she was having a fabulous time. She told us that she had undergone a scan today and was waiting to hear the results.
We left her room and traveled to the north tower and checked in on him. He was awake and lying flat on his back. He had a procedure on his heart today. The doctors were unable to do all that they had hoped at this time.
As he talked with us, my attention was drawn to a small dish of strawberry shortcake that balanced on top of the covers he lay beneath. He teasingly asked us if we would like to share it with him.
He related the events of his surgery and ended by confiding the results of her scan today. The news was not good. She has only a short time left. Hospice is going to be the next phase for her. She will be wheeled to her life partner's room when their son arrives later from his own daughter's 18th birthday dinner. Along with her son, her husband will give her the news they all hoped not to hear. No doctor, no matter how skilled, can ease the aching of their hearts. The younger son calls to tell his father he doesn't think he will make it back up tonight. This dad, dealing with his own mortality and vulnerability, assures his son not to worry about it. I am moved beyond words by the gentle way he calls his boy "son."
Oh Heavenly Father, he was sharing his heartache with us and all I could do was look at that strawberry shortcake with whipped cream slowly vanishing down the sides. It seemed so out of place there balanced on the covers. I wanted to reach out and remove it. How could something that was supposed to be so delightful be sitting there resting atop a man who is about to tell his wife she is surely, for sure, dying this very hour? There is no more hope, no more treatment, and no more time.
My mind frantically searched to make sense of strawberry shortcake and the prospect of death sharing company as the clock strikes midnight for this precious family. Writing this down sounds ridiculous and viewing it was even more so.
Why did I have such an overwhelming desire to make it disappear from my sight? I think somewhere in the back of my mind it was calling me to summer picnics, little girls in strawberry printed sundresses, and happier days, and at this moment it reminds me of our practice to stand around eating desserts and chatting at funeral meals. I've never been able to make this habit fit comfortably with the seriousness of death.
Suddenly in the tug of war going on inside my head, and I know I think way too much, the word "joy" came to my mind. In the midst of excruciating pain, Jesus told his disciples to be joyful. Paul often told Christians to be joyful. James told believers suffering trials to be joyful.
And at this very moment, sitting here writing, a story I've not heard in a while comes to mind. It has been told many times in various ways; an elderly lady asks to be buried with her fork in her hand. She is asked why. She answers that through the years she has been told to keep her fork when the dinner dishes are cleared away from the table; the best is yet to come; dessert is about to be served. And over her lifespan, she has come to understand that death is just a prelude to the best and most wonderful experience of her lifetime.
As I sit here now contemplating these things, I suddenly remember the one other time we went to visit this man's precious wife. I kept squeezing her hand, trying to show her how much I cared. I wanted desperately to bring some comfort to her. Before we left the room, I gathered my courage. It took courage because I longed to state the simple truth, not a false promise that everything here on this earth was going to be just fine. I bent down and whispered in her ear, "The best is yet to come." She nodded her head and tearfully answered, "I know."
And now she does know. She knows in reality what the rest of us only dream of. She has crossed the bridge between this life and the next one. The disease that sapped her vitality and strength has been cast aside. She is whole once again. Together she waits expectantly, joyfully, with our Father for the rest of us to follow.
Then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city, coming down from God in heaven. It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and ready to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice shout from the throne: God's home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever. Then the one sitting on the throne said: I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty. All who win the victory will be given these blessings. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Revelation 21:2-7)