There is a new soul standing in the LORD’s presence, as of a few hours ago. My beautiful Grandmother is home. What brings heartache and tears to us is the best thing that could ever happen to a human being, to be ushered into Heaven and to see the LORD face to face. To be healed of pain. To be unbroken. To be renewed, fully. The infirmity of old age, gone. The fears of life, gone. The effects of sin and the battle against sin, gone. Conflict, gone. Uncertainty, gone. Grief, gone. The hope of Salvation, fully realized.
It is desperately hard to watch someone you love slowly deteriorate. It is hard to watch the process of a slow death that spans days and weeks. It is hard to see the physical body become more broken, until what remains is just a shadow of the person I knew as a child and young adult, the mind becoming confused, independence wholly lost. But now that Grandma is gone, I can more clearly remember her as she was a few years ago, in the prime of her old age, a vibrant, feisty, quiet woman and lover of the LORD, particular and orderly, who also loved to laugh and loved her family very much. I can remember her letters she sent when we still lived in Illinois, that always included crossword puzzles specifically picked for each grandchild, letters written in her graceful but spidery handwriting.
Grandma was a lover of beauty. God gifted her eyes to see beauty, and her home always reflected that. She kept an immaculate house, with simple and lovely furnishings, beautiful items picked up on her travels with my Grandfather, family heirlooms, cut flowers from her expansive garden, and the aromas from her kitchen. She opened her home graciously, to family, Bible studies, missionaries, friends, always the perfect hostess, and every meal was followed by a chipper, “Come again!” and a spunky smile.One of her greatest joys was flowers, and as she became less able to see them in person, unable to visit her cherished garden, she became the greatest supporter of my photography, and I could always count on sweet times with her, showing her my latest flower pictures, or recycling old ones just for fun as her memory grew more forgiving and the pictures were all always new. She would exclaim and admire over the color, the variety, and I was amazed by how eagerly she recognized these old friends even as other things became less clear.
She loved singing hymns, and whenever we sang as a family, she followed along and sang with us. The truths of those old hymns continued to resonate with her as she grew older, her faith becoming clearer, as this world became more dim. And as her inhibitions and reserve grew less, evidence of her faith became more visible.
All her life, she trusted Christ as her Savior. Seeing her at the end of her life, while sad, was encouraging. Her faith never wavered and the peace she had even as her body was deteriorating was a testament to the reality of her hope. Dad read Scripture with her every evening when he and Mom tucked her in to bed, and up until maybe a week ago, she could quote Psalm 23 right along with my Dad while he read it.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. ~Psalm 23
What a gift, and what evidence of her Salvation, that what stayed with her to the end was her knowledge of her Savior.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
Grandma had this hope.
As my pastor has explained again and again, Biblical hope isn’t an “I hope so” hope, but a confident expectation. A confident expectation. Grandma knew where she was going when she died. If Heaven is the next step, the final step, what do we have to fear in this life, even death, even deterioration, even entirely losing one’s independence to the effects of old age? What are a few years of infirmity and pain, or a few months, or a few days, compared with the weight of the glory of eternity with Christ?
The Bible makes very clear that this earth is not our home. All of us have a limited number of days on this earth. And when our count of days comes to an end, those who love the LORD will find themselves ushered from this life into Heaven, to a more glorious, pleasant, joyful existence than anything our finite human brains can imagine. We will be ushered home.
Home. To earthly minds hungering for safety, belonging, security, love, peace, family, contentment, joy, relief of pain, things that can only be temporarily satisfied here on earth, if satisfied at all, that word may be bittersweet, or strike the heart with longing. But our Heavenly home and the One who resides there will satisfy us completely. Every longing will fall away. One of my favorite Scripture passages is from the book of Revelation, and it brings tears to my eyes, now in a different way:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
We ache for her, the ones left behind for now, but I’m so glad she is now without pain, or sorrow, or fear, any of the effects of this fallen world we live in. She is the privileged one, to be with the LORD, to have her hope satisfied and realized. I can see Grandma now, surrounded by such beauty only hinted at in the beauty she loved so much on this earth. God has wiped away her tears, but the tears of ecstatic joy I’m sure have abounded and are flowing freely, if there are tears of joy in Heaven. There must be. Tears mingled with laughter. And Grandpa is there, and her brother, and her parents, all rejoicing in the presence of their King, in a home where the peace and joy won’t fade and the hymns won’t cease.
Home. What a beautiful word. And what a glorious reunion there will one day be.