PREPARED FOR THE JOURNEY
Finally I whispered, “You know what we would advise people who told us a story like that, don’t you?”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9, NKJV
She went on to tell the Lord what she told me. I could hardly hear her voice. As she prayed, it dawned on me that everything she said was true of me. I could have been a better father, more careful with the money, a better witness, more affectionate toward Eva.
When Eva finished her prayer, I prayed my prayer. Two weary pilgrims in a hospital room, getting our hearts cleaned up by the living God. I look back on that incident as one of the most inspiring, refreshing, renewing moments in our forty-two years of marriage. It was a final tune-up before the supreme event of all: preparing to meet the Lord.
The next day I was alone with Eva in her room. She was alert and seemed supernaturally peaceful.
I asked, “Are you scared today?”
She said, “No, not at all.”
I asked, “Why not?”
She said, with a broad smile, “I got the garbage cleaned out of my heart last night.” I asked, “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” she said.
Some visitors dropped in. When they left, I asked her if she would like to talk to our daughter Beth because our son Dick and his wife Patti had called the day before. I dialed the number and Eva chatted with Beth.
About a half hour later, Eva dozed off. I noticed that she was breathing unusually heavy. Just then, Sue, our daughter who was helping me take care of Eva, walked in. Together we watched Eva take a final breath and she was gone. I heard Sue say “Praise the Lord.” I agreed. What a wonderful experience. She was with the Lord whom we loved and served.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
Psalm 116:15, NKJV
I cannot and could not look at her death as a tragedy. I suppose it all depends on your preparation, and we really believe that to meet Jesus was the ultimate, supreme event of life.
Recently, I talked to a couple who had not seen their son for four years because he was in another country, getting an education. Of course they missed him, but they would not for one moment deprive him of that privilege.
I look at Eva’s death in the same way. What a privilege for her to go on ahead to meet Jesus. Of course we miss her, but we would not for one moment deprive her of that privilege.
There were piles of cards that arrived after Eva died. One stood out that came from Dr. Earl Radmacher, the president of Western Baptist Seminary:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone.”
“Gone where?” Gone from my sight . . . that is all. She is as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at that moment when someone at my side says, “there she’s gone,” there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.¹
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Matthew 25:34, NKJV
The key to anticipating the death of the people we know and love is preparation. When you love someone as much as you do the Lord and He calls that person to come to Him, you will be pleased with His decision. This is the ultimate, crowning event that all of us will experience if we meet the conditions. A warm welcome from the One who loves us is what we eagerly anticipate if our conscience is clear.
I later found a note among Eva’s papers, dated January 10, 1982:
Through this experience I’ve had the joy and comfort of having my family and friends upholding me in prayer and supporting me in every way. This has given strength, relaxation, and a deep sense of comfort and peace—and to know God has been with me, near me, beside me—with the promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”—what perfect peace and comfort this has been! Jesus had to suffer that awful experience of separation from His Father—He suffered alone—I have never experienced this!
She died April 26, 1982.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV