This morning, my daddy’s brother, Amos, went home to Heaven. He went peacefully. My cousin, Velma, was with him when he slipped away around 4:30.
My thoughts have been so much with Velma today. I wonder if the vigil held Glory for her. I wonder if she felt the extreme privilege of handing off the hand that she was holding into the very hand of God. I wonder if the ground felt Holy. So very much I pray that it was so for her. Somehow this business of keeping watch over Godly parents who are making the crossing is truly a privilege like none other. It is so true that it is a time of incredible joy, even while it is a sense of loss.
Uncle Amos has been “missing” for a long time. There were days when his children would report that it was a good day, and maybe he recognized someone, but most of it has been so clouded for so long, that this day of being “absent from the body and present with the LORD” is one of great rejoicing. We know so little about the other side and how it will be, but the promise of health and peace and everlasting LIFE is something that rings into our hearts with such a glorious hope that it is hard to think of anything except the fact that he is “Home, Free” and there is no more Alzheimer’s to contend with.
The morning here was busy — 19 for brunch and now we are trying to finish up loose ends before Middle Daughter flies to Ireland for ten days (leaving this evening). And in between all the physical activity was the sad, sad “God appointment” of talking with young friends who just learned this week that the baby she is carrying is no longer living. It has been a long time since something has sat on my heart with such a sympathetic sorrow. I heard the news on Thursday evening, and wondered if they would make the trip here from Ohio as planned, but Youngest Son said they felt the need to be “loved on” and prayed for — something that people at home could certainly do, but maybe they needed the diversion. They were going to come.
All day yesterday, they were on my mind. I felt sad and slow and almost sick all day. I cried alot! The overcast day with the thread of storm was reminiscent of another September day, 34 years ago, when the rain was slapping against the hospital windows of Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I had just lost my third pregnancy, a little boy, who died at 18 weeks and was stillborn two weeks later.
My doctor sat on a chair in the corner and gave me the details of what had been the cataclysmic ending of so many prayers and hopes and dreams. He hated the whole business, and he was trying hard to be as honest as he could be. He said, “I really do not think that you will ever carry a pregnancy to term. You have a really bad track record and the chances are very slim.” I huddled on the bed and his words slid somewhere into the pit of my stomach and felt like Muriatic Acid, eating away somewhere inside. The hospital had given me a private room, but it was on the maternity ward and around me were the cries of newborns, and passing in the hall were people pushing clear sided carts with exquisite little bundles of squirming, healthy babies. I could feel my heart breaking into a zillion pieces. He was compassionate. And I knew he really did care, but he couldn’t begin to understand what those words were doing to my soul. There was silence and then he said, “What do you want to do?”
“I just want to go home,” I whispered.
He looked relieved. “We can do that,” he said briskly. “You can go today. I’ll write the orders now.” And he took his sheaf of papers and was gone. The Man that I Love Most came and gently loaded me into our car took me home. We went back to our little house on West Avenue in Plain City, and we grieved and people loved us and prayed for us and we healed. I look back to that day and can trace God’s hand, and the picture is so good and so much more complete than I ever dreamed possible. God had a PLAN!!!
But when someone is in the same boat that we were in that long ago day, I remember, and I think about how I felt that day, and I remember all the ways that people cared and how, even when they said something that maybe wasn’t helpful (and people do — they don’t mean to, but they do!) they were trying to help, trying to comfort us. They let us know they cared; that they believed in us, and they (I truly believe) prayed for us. Best, best gifts at such a difficult time.
I prayed a lot yesterday for this young couple, and wondered what I could do to help. Some years ago, I purchased a gift book, I’ll Hold you in Heaven, by Debbie Heydrick, for such a time as this. I slipped into the local Christian bookstore to pick up a small willow tree figurine to go with it, and thought and thought about what I could possibly say that would be helpful. Really, there isn’t much that I could think of.
I worked late last night, partly because I had been so slow all day that I just didn’t get done, partly so that I would be so tired that I would sleep soundly when I went to bed, partly so I wouldn’t have anything much to do this morning when time always gets away from me.
I got up this morning, and brought up my google account, and one of the first things I saw was a message from my cousin, Judi Nafziger, and on the subject line, three words: Amos is Home. The family has been waiting for this transition for a good while, as the man they knew as their father slipped farther and farther away from them, until the things that were familiar were so obscured that it was hard to find their Daddy. Was he really there?
All of this has made me think a great deal about Death today. From our vantage point, one of these deaths is so regrettably untimely. It just doesn’t feel like the way we would do it if we were choosing the big plan of God’s love for these young people. The other death has been longed for, prayed for, and is the gentle “going out” of an unpretentious man who did the best he could for as long as he could for God and the people he loved. Even when Alzheimer’s stole his abilities to cope with everyday living, his servant heart kept on showing him ways to help those around him, long after a lesser man would have retreated into useless solitude. Uncle Amos. He is safely Home today.
And when I had a quick moment to hug the two clearly grieving young people and to cry with them a little, and to try to give inadequate words of understanding, I knew again that it’s not by might, not by power, not even by carefully chosen words that come from the best of intentions, but rather by His Spirit that any real comfort is given. And I remember that more clearly than anything else: the sweet, sweet comfort of the Holy Spirit in our darkest hours. The Holy Spirit was called “The Comforter” by our Lord Jesus, and I have found it so. These two know the Father. They are His children. I believe it will be so for them, too.
And I don’t envy them the pain. It’s real. It’s cutting. It’s lonely. But I do remember that there is nothing like being held in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge that sat in my heart and comforted me that said a pain like this would not be wasted in our lives if we would only trust Him.
And I do envy them the excitement of knowing that God Himself is walking these sad days with them and that He has a plan..