Thursday, March 23, 2017

And So She Walks....

Happy heavenly 8th birthday, Beth! Today's ELM is dedicated to our sister, Beth who now resides in Heaven.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to be silent and a time to speak, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Eccl 3:1-11 (NIV)

During the last two weeks of my sister, Beth’s life, her constant smile was replaced with a distant stare. Previously, she would fight her worn out body by willing herself out of bed, as if showing both cancer and death who was boss. But now, both her mind and body were emptied of any fight and both were surrendered. Our bedside interaction was replaced with silence and subtle acknowledgements. God had led me to begin considering music for her funeral.

Beth’s funeral…how heart-wrenching that thought was as it traveled from my head to my heart. Never had I imagined that our little community of four sisters would lose one of its residents at such an early age. Yet, isn’t every experience of life only a season as King Solomon penned?

During those silent visits, I began remembering my conversation with Beth a few months earlier which brought tears to my eyes, but a smile to my face. Due to the extreme pain from her cancer, she was on an unbelievably high dose of several pain blocking narcotics. She seemed on any given day to drift between reality and fantasy. One day as we sitting together in the Hospice House, she patted her bed with her fragile little hand signaling for me to join her. I had bought her a decorative box in which she could store her pens, pads, paper, Bible and books. She reached over and grabbed a pad and pen and the fantasy of planning her wedding unfolded. I was painfully aware that even in her deep confusion, the reality of death and her funeral was never far away. I so appreciated the grace of God painting this picture with the beautiful colors of a wedding instead of the dark charcoals of a funeral. Her questions warmed my heart as she would record my answers by drawing little bubbles on the page, much like a stenographer would record every important word. I still smile when I consider the questions coming from her place in fantasy met with God’s grace. She asked, ‘Now should we serve hors d’oeuvres in the front of the church? Will there be a celebration afterwards? What kind of music shall we play?’

Many days were spent planning this wedding with questions and answers that never changed, and the same plans ‘bubbled on the pages of her wedding planner.’ Never in a million years could I have predicted that this wedding day would occur on the same day 14 years previously when she gave her heart and life to her husband, Paul. As our family worked together to come up with the beautiful music, I burned the cd that would be played in the waiting moments before for our guests before the funeral began.

During the last ten days of her life, I brought my laptop to her room and would play these beautiful songs, more for my own heart and spirit. I can’t help but wonder what she was experiencing in those quiet, unreachable days when she was finally bed bound and did not walk. Was this in between living holy ground for which no one could enter? She must have rehearsed this walk a million times much like a bride imagines the day she walks down her aisle. I cannot help to feel that as she could no longer walk on earth, she was preparing to walk to heaven. So, in the spirit of all of our planning, our talks and the bubbles on the page, I share my version of her experience in those last days when she couldn’t be reached between death on earth and birth into eternity.

“She must be nervous for off in the distance she hears the echo of music playing and soft murmurs of familiar voices. She has considered this walk a million times in her mind, but this time was different…no anxiety…no turning back. She could finally see what was up ahead of her and it was grander than anything behind her. No turning around this time for she was embracing this wedding day, and would kneel on the altar of eternal commitment – the surrender of total body and spirit to the One.

She treasures in her heart that for the second time March 14th offers the day she offers her love completely to another whom she adores. She lovingly remembers how her earthly father offered his arm the first time. But, this time it will be her heavenly Father that offers His arm to walk her down the aisle. The Director comes to her and whispers that it is time and she hears the music swell. She nervously steps out into the aisle with a pounding in her heart and a radiance surrounding her. Her radiance is met with the radiance of her Father as He offers His arm to her. How beautiful she looks to Him!

She carries a bouquet with the fragrance of her courageous walk during her suffering. She is dressed in a white linen robe instead of sequins and lace. Her hair is held back with ribbons of righteousness as she is being made perfect and pure. Her earthly knowledge is being replaced with pearls of wisdom as everything is becoming more clearly seen in the spiritual realm. Her vision is still slightly blurred by the thin veil of her earthly inhabitation of flesh. How excited she must be at the thought of her veil soon to be lifted by the One whom she loves. It will be the perfect timing of God that will determine when her veil is lifted and their eyes meet each other’s gaze. The delicate petals of her faith are scattered along the aisle from earth to heaven. The petals are seen from both sides, the view from the earth as petals of inspiration while the view from heaven as petals of fulfilled purposes.

She trustingly reaches out her tiny arm and joyfully slides it into her heavenly Father’s arm. The music builds in intensity, the processional begins, and so they walk. As she walks she hears sobs of those she loves who must give away the bride. The further she walks down that divine aisle, the sobs are replaced by the anticipation and joy of her new family as they welcome her into their eternal family. While her heart is burdened for the temporary separation of her earthly family, her new wisdom reminds her that one by one they will join her someday.

And so she walks…"

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