Life & Death

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

A week ago my best friend’s mother died. She was in her 80’s, living in a nursing home these last years.  She slipped away peacefully, two daughters at her side, and other far-flung offspring on a speakerphone.  As endings go, we should all be so lucky.

Today is are the memorial activities in OH. I was able to make plans to attend.  I decided to stay at a hotel in Tiffin, OH where I got my BA from Heidelberg College.  I took a walk across campus yesterday, stirring up memories, and having to ask for directions once or twice.  They’ve made a lot of changes in the last several decades!

Strolling around the library, one of the staff started chatting me up. When I told her what I did when I was there and mentioned my old theatre prof, she told me that his daughter was working in the campus service center!  I found her office, looked in her door, and got the look I was hoping for.

Her dad had died many years ago, and I was unable to attend the funeral. We sat and talked for over an hour.  I realized later that we had actually had a bit of a wake for him as we traded memories and stories about him.  It was healing.

Lauren is a Christian. She told me her dad was certainly in heaven.  She knew his faith.  She commented that she just didn’t know how someone without faith, without that sure knowledge of Jesus’ saving power can cope with life, let alone death.

That visit had to end, as the day was winding down, and I had another wake to start.

It was great to see everyone again! Rick and I had grown up together; we were two sons from two families.  We had four parents and two sets of siblings.  His set is much bigger than mine.  There were the kid’s kids – three generations in all.  We had a very fun, late visit at their hotel.

One of the closing discussions involved what to do about the homeless. I said that it’ll never be completely solved; Jesus said we would always have the poor with us.  Our job is to do to best we can.

At the mention of Jesus, faces that had been engaging and smiling all evening suddenly went blank and a bit distant. I had used the “J” Word.

Therein lies the unforeseen juxtaposition of two stories I found myself in. One family Christian and comforted with that sure knowledge of salvation.  The other very weak believers at best.  Do I think my “other mom” is in heaven or hell?  I can’t say.  They knew who God was, they were members at a church, but their words over the years leave me wondering – and worrying – where their hearts lie.

They know my beliefs. I’ve never made a secret of my faith.  Do they believe a little or at all?  I can’t peer that deeply into their being.  I pray for them and have for years.

Two wakes. One was a series of testimonials from siblings about the dear departed.  No pastor.  No mention of the comfort Jesus gives so freely.  No sort of acknowledgement to His saving grace, although it was well-planned to make sure everyone, literally from the Atlantic to the Pacific, could make it in and bid their mother one last farewell.  Maybe their faith is held very quietly and personally.  I don’t know.

The other was completely unplanned, but filled with faith, humor (you would just have to know Jim and Marti to fully appreciate the belly laughs!), and comfort that came from outside of us. It was a comfort that was not carried in the weak vessels of testimonials, but in the saving Flesh and Blood of a living Saviour.  The testimonials were our celebration of a truly great man, a sweet wine to pour in tribute at the threshold of his salvation.

I love my other family and always will. I continue to pray for their salvation and show my faith.

That’s the only way anyone really can make it.

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