My friend Christine finished her race. She struggled on the final lap due to organs in her body failing. However, she kept running. Her major concern throughout her protracted illness was to be a good witness for her Lord and Savior.
I had the privilege of knowing her for over 25 years as our paths initially had crossed during our days of homeschooling. She was one of the few moms who would always refer to me as Mrs. Schwartz. When she said it, I felt the honor with which she conveyed it. It didn’t matter if we ran into each other at the grocery store or at a musical recital. It always made me smile. Christine also was my youngest daughter’s piano and organ teacher. She had such a passion for music and spent a good bit of her time encouraging others to love it as well.
When Christine was struggling with infection and the inability to eat, she kept asking the question, “Why hasn’t God taken me yet?” She would quickly answer it herself and state that maybe there was more for her to do. Even in her final weeks in the hospital, she welcomed visitors to pray with her and sing with her. She never expressed bitterness, only curiosity about how much longer she would be here. And, she wanted to be a good witness to the hospital and medical staff.
Christine wanted to die well. She wanted to remain faithful and struggled with the decision to remain on life support resources or just those meant to ease her terrible pain. After consultation, prayer, and a peace about the options, she went on comfort care. However, during a lucid moment prior to sedation, she went on and on about all the foods she loved that she had been unable to eat for three years, looking forward to the possibility of enjoying them again. Around her hospital bed, her family was gathered around her as she was describing what lied ahead in the life to come, including those she loved who had gone before her.
Many think that when life support is removed, the patient dies immediately. Not so. Christine went 5 days before she took her last breath. Many might also consider those days to be without purpose or function. I disagree. The way I look at it, the Lord was further preparing her for her eternal heavenly home. Much in the same way we here on earth prepare for important events, I picture something in that order of significance taking place.
It gives me great comfort when I think of these passages,
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)
I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race. (2 Tim 4:7)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
The Bible does give us pictures of heaven. Most of the images are focused on the Ancient of Days and the Lamb who was slain for our sins. What we witness of those who are in the presence of God face-to-face includes praise, worship and eternal joy. For sure, we don’t understand this fully from our vantage point, but the images are sublime enough that we should anticipate the reality being far greater than we can imagine.
I will miss Christine, but I am not sad for her. Her family will now begin the earthly reality of living without her presence. But, she has been gathered to her people and leaves a legacy and a testimony that asserts,
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:57-58)