I had the blessed privilege to be awakened in the middle of the night a few days ago. One of the members of my congregation had just passed away and the new widow was calling to inform me.
I quickly responded by asking her if I could come be with her at her house. She said, “No, but I’m going to the care facility right now to see him and you can meet me there if you’d like.” I told her I’d be right there.
By God’s design, we arrived at the care facility at the same time (12:20 AM) and made our way to a dimly lit side-door. I had never been to that facility before and I didn’t know where the front door was. I knocked at the side-door a few times until finally someone opened it. The worker greeted us saying, “People usually come through the front door.” I’m glad I’m not quick-witted because this would have been a prime opportunity to display my finest work!
I’ve been to many care facilities . . . but not at 12:20 AM. The place was dark. The halls were dimly lit. There were interesting aromas. There were interesting noises. We eventually made our way to the room where the drapes were drawn around the middle bed of three beds and a small bed light was glowing through the curtains.
As we ventured toward the break in the drapes, she drew back the drape and saw her husband. He looked quite peaceful. She slowly moved to his side. She reached out her hand and began gently to rub her finger against his face which had a little bit of stubble. She lovingly and thoughtfully moved her finger back and forth. She then reached down and touched his hand.
It was one of the most loving scenes I’ve ever witnessed- a wife of fifty-some years gently stroking the face of her departed beloved. There weren’t any tears or sobs . . . just loving glances and touches.
I watched with deep admiration . . . I admired her courage and I was captivated. My mind kept pondering what must be going through her mind. I’ll never know. All I do know is what I learned that amazing night . . . four life-changing lessons.
First, I perceived a sense of fulfillment permeating the drape-enclosed space. The fulfillment came from staying true to the vows “till death do us part.” I sensed God’s pleasure that the marriage covenant was honored and I believe He extended a special grace to the surviving spouse. It was truly special to behold.
Second, I’ve noticed a special grace that author Max Lucado calls “living grace and dying grace.” In John 14, Jesus promises His peace to His followers and I’ve witnesses this peace time after time with the surviving spouse. Yes, there is grief, but there is also an underlying peace and grace that can only come from the Lord.
I’ve also witnessed dying grace. This is the grace where God gives His dying saint a sense that the end is near and everything is going to be fine. I don’t see any fear or panic. It is an undergirding by the hand of the Lord that carries the dying saint during his/her last days until He carries him/her Home.
Third, I’ve witnesses the power of Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” I usually quote this verse as I’m sitting with the spouse next to his/her departed. These words are powerful and real. They have the eternal power to turn the most helpless moment into the most powerful realization that this loved one is alive!
Fourth and finally, I’ve witnessed how death teaches me about life. Sitting next to the body of a departed church member brings clarity. The clarity is this . . . as Christians we are not to fear death or run from it. We are to embrace it. As the Apostle Paul says, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!” It’s only when I embrace my death and the victory it will bring that I truly begin to live!