My grandmother saw her 88th birthday yesterday, an event we weren't sure would happen, even as recently as two days ago. Several times within the past year, and many times over the past five years, she has been very close to death. Each time, however, she has bounced back, regained her strength, and moved on - earning the title "Energizer Bunny." She has resilient strength that just keeps going and going. About six months ago, she first began to mention her longing to go home to heaven. Yet she fought through pneumonia and massive internal bleeding to recover, rehab, and regain her former strength. Now, though, we're coming to the end. Fluid-filled lungs and aspiration lead to imminent respiratory failure.
Though we are all grieving, we know she has had a long, full life. Through tremendous hardship, she has always displayed amazing strength and joy. It is her witness that has led two of her kids to be pastors, and a third involved in church leadership. Because of her witness, her kids and grand kids are serving God. Several times my grandmother has stared intently at the ceiling, raising up in bed and extending her arms. When asked, "What do you see?" she strongly replied, "Jesus! I see Jesus...He's right there." She's ready to go Home.
I will miss her more than I know how to express. Yet I know she will be with Jesus, free from the constant pain she has known for years. When we celebrated her birthday Tuesday night and said our rather final goodbyes, I repeated my favorite farewell message. "I love you, Nanny, and we'll see you soon." Perhaps stupid semantics, but I didn't want to say "goodbye." Death is not the end; heaven, eternity with God, is coming soon and forever. Nanny will join the great cloud of witnesses, the saints who have gone on before, but it is not permanent separation. Joy and longing for heaven, for the presence of God, should give us hope and spur us on as we live day to day.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15: 54-57