"The day you fear as the last is the birthday of eternity"
-Seneca, Roman philosopher
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -John 16:33
Last night I went on a hospital visitation with Matt for a member of our church's sister. For some reason, I heard "on a ventilator and they're about to remove it" and didn't think at all about any comparisons to what we experienced with my Mom back in January. Oh, how wrong that was of me. I started feeling uneasy as we pulled into the parking deck which looked remarkably like the visitor deck when Mom was in the hospital in Orlando. As we went past the waiting room, it had that same smell, that same inexplicable heaviness of all hospital waiting rooms. We came into the ICU area, and it was just like the others I've been in... different, yet completely the same. Just before we walked into Julie's room, I had to stop and turn around as I burst into sobs. She looked just like Mom, but thinner, blonder, and I had the disadvantage of never having seen what she "really" looked like. I remembered us putting a picture of Mom and Dad on the wall in Mom's hospital room, ironically from a trip to Singapore from just a few months before she we knew anything was wrong at all, and the nurses saying how pretty she was. You'd never know what anyone looked like when you see them in this condition. A ventilator is truly a horrible thing.
I felt terrible when I walked into the actual room, that I had come to help comfort this family, some I have known for just a few weeks, and some I had never met at all, with tears streaming down my face. I felt selfish because I was crying for my own pain as well as theirs. I can only hope that they could tell how much I cared because I know that kind of pain, and because I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, much less a friend, no matter how short of a time I have known them.
So of course, when it comes to the hard and inescapable fact of death, it is our human nature to wonder about Heaven, to wonder what it's like, as we try to take comfort in the fact that our beloved Mom and Sharon's beloved sister Julie, have gone there without us, and we can't yet follow them. It is also our human nature that asks why the God we praise as our ever-loving and all-powerful Heavenly Father could allow us such pain? The conclusion I have come to from over 8 months after the end of Mom's earthly life is that yes, God does allow death in the sense that He has the power to change anything and everything about this life and this physical realm we experience the moment He should choose to. The fact that He doesn't, when he could, shows the expanse of His love for us.
If that doesn't make any sense to you at all, stay with me... God doesn't allow death in the way that we think. Death, sickness, pain, suffering, cancer, heartache, loneliness, bruises, cuts, even simple things like cavities and blisters, are all a result of sin. They are the inevitable result of this sinful world we live in and the sinful nature of our human selves. When a newborn baby dies, we don't understand. We don't understand why the seemingly most innocent of all could die without even the chance to live. The answer is not because he deserved it. The answer is: because we all deserve it. God sent His son to die for us, instead of us, so that we could have eternal life in Heaven with Him, even though our sinful human natures say we should die. The fact that He allows us to choose whether or not we want Him to die for us personally is because of His love for us. If he forced us to choose Him, we'd be nothing but robots blindly serving the will of a dictator. God loves us enough to give us the choice, even knowing that some of us will chose wrongly and miss out on His salvation.
I think we all wonder too how people in Heaven can know what's going on with us, because how can they see the pain on earth and still be in Heaven since the Bible says there's no pain in Heaven? I think it's because when you get there, you immediately have God's perspective on the world... on life and death and the beginning and end... the big picture, if you will. You see the suffering and know it's not fun, but you see the outcome, the eventual way God makes it all right, the way all things come together for good for those who love God. (Romans 8:28). Basically, all the things we could never understand here on earth suddenly and instantly all will make sense.
I know there are people I have failed by not telling them about this salvation when I had the chance, when I had the experience of Mom's death as an immediate open door to talk to them. I really hope that if you've already accepted God's seems-too-good-to-be-true offer, you'll tell someone. Anyone. Surely there's someone you want to have come to Heaven with you. Don't wait until they are laying in a hospital bed on a ventilator, so deeply sedated that you have no idea what they hear and what they don't when you speak to them. And if you don't know about this salvation and want to know more, please leave a comment here so I can email you. Heaven is waiting for you too... my Mom is there, and my friend Julie that I never got the chance to meet is too.
ps- I'm reading a fantastic book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn and it is phenomenal. If you want a real, down to earth, realistic, and scripture-based description of what Heaven will be like (especially if you have a hard time picturing it as a real place and not a place in the clouds or an idea) definitely check it out.