Will I See My Papa Again?

50th anniversary

It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Death of Signarama

It would be in the cool of the evening when Chris and I would slip out to walk together, by ourselves.  This was a special treat.  It is hard to get time alone to talk and even harder to leave the house without some tag-alongs when you have 9 children.  I hadn’t been up to walking much in the past year, being pregnant and then recovering from having a C-section.  In the weeks following my surgery, Chris had encouraged me to walk with him.  It was spring and the weather was so lovely…but I wasn’t feeling up to it, and the truth was…I was afraid.  Afraid that I would be too tired to make it very far, afraid that my large incision would hurt and feel like it was busting open. The truth was, I was fighting the sorrow of having a C-section rather than the natural birth I had dreamed of, and I was still so very tired.

Chris kept pushing me out of my comfort zone (like he always does) and practically forced me to start walking.

“We will just go around the block and we can always stop and go back if you get too tired,” he wisely coaxed me.

So it began.  First just a short walk up the street and back, then around the block, then to the elementary school, and the all around the neighborhood.  The children got used to our nightly outings after supper, and older ones took care of the younger ones back at the house.

Chris and I got the glorious opportunity to clear our minds in the cool evening air. We would talk about our day and the children.  We were drawing closer to each other, and I could feel the depression lifting off of me.  I also thought I saw it lifting off of Chris as well.  He had been struggling the past 3 and a half years.  Almost four years ago was when we had purchased Signarama, a small sign shop down the street from our house.

We didn’t have experience in the sign industry, and we didn’t have a lot of start-up capital, nor was anyone willing to give us a loan or a decent line of credit. This was one of Chris’ big dreams, and we were crazy enough to take the leap into the unknown, believing that God had led us.

Being a business owner had taken a toll on Chris.  I had watched him begin with excitement and work hard.  I had watched that excitement diminish as he faced challenge after challenge.  He continued to fight and work hard month after month, but many days he had to fight through depression just to keep going.

In the midst of the struggle, we saw that God was working.  He saved us from having to close the doors three times.  We would get to the point where we had no more money to continue, could see no way out, and then God would do something miraculous. Singarama would remain to make signs for another day…and Chris would keep on fighting.

All through my pregnancy, time in the hospital for the C-section, and my slow recovery; Chris and I were both worn out, battling depression, and weary of fighting.  The business was failing again.

Yet when we took our walks together, we discussed all of these things and the weariness would lift a bit.  We enjoyed walking down the tree-lined streets and looking at the beautiful older homes in our neighborhood, each one unique and full of character.  Then we would follow a path through green rolling hills and marvel at the colors that the sunset had painted onto a perfect sky.

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The fact that all this majesty was found in a cemetery didn’t diminish it, but rather added to it.  The headstones had their own sublime beauty in the light of the setting sun.  Some were old and others were very recent.  Some had statues of angels…

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others were without any embellishment at all.  But all of them represented a life that had been celebrated by those who were left behind.  They were a memorial of the death of one who was loved.

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How fitting for us to be walking among these gravestones as we discussed the death of Signarama.

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During the long days of fighting for Signarama, having to close the shop had felt like the worst possible thing that could happen.

Yet as we discussed the inevitability of shutting down the business for good, we realized that this was not the worst possible thing.  We had lived alongside others who had endured much worse.  One guy had to sell his business because he and his wife were getting a divorce.  Another man was watching his fiancé slowly die of cancer.  Three marriages close to us had been shaken because of unthinkable betrayals.  Even in these tragic circumstances, there was always the hope of Christ.

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Thankfully, all we were facing was the loss of money.  Our marriage had been strengthened through the trials.  Our children were healthy and happy.  Our baby had not died but lived because of the C-section.  We were so blessed!!!!

Of course we weren’t just discussing the loss of money and the loss of our livelihood.  We were discussing the loss of a dream.  The loss of a big dream that we were hoping would lead to the fulfillment of many other dreams.  A big dream in which we had invested everything we had for the past four years!

Admitting that this dream really was dying was also admitting that we had heard God wrong. That He really hadn’t wanted us to buy Signarama in the first place.  Perhaps we had made a huge mistake and had gone woefully off course, wasting our time and money, moving backwards rather than forwards.

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Or perhaps God really did speak to us, but we just misinterpreted what He was saying.  Wow, we had seriously misinterpreted!  In fact, we had no idea what He was doing right now, or what He was going to do!  We admitted to each other that we didn’t know much of anything anymore.

How incredibly freeing that was!  We could surrender to God’s will, even if that meant losing everything we had wanted and worked for…because we knew that He was still good and that He still loved us.  We could surrender our “knowledge” and trust in God’s superior wisdom.

The possibility of Signarama being lifted off of Chris’ shoulders gave him a hope that he hadn’t had in a long time.  Perhaps he could finally be free of all the responsibility and the hassles and the long hours.

There was so much sorrow in the defeat and failure, yet there was so much hope as well.  The death of something always means the birth of something new, and new was exciting.

I began reading Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Visher (the creator of Veggie Tales) during this time, and what a comfort it was to me!  Phil had a big dream like we did.  He had a huge success, and then the most colossal failure!  The grand scale of his failure sure made me feel better about our own.  But what was really striking about his book was the fact that he was actually THANKFUL for his failure because it brought him closer to God.

During some of his darkest hours, Phil was listening to a recording of a sermon and the preacher said, “What does it mean when God gives you a dream, and he shows up in it and the dream comes to life, and then without warning, the dream dies?  What does that mean?…It may mean that God wants to see what is more important to you – the dream or Him.”

This set Phil on a path to find God, to walk with Him as the men of old did.  Noah was able to fulfill the dream of building an ark after 500 years of walking with God.  Phil realized that during the frenzied years of “Veggie Tales”, his life was about working hard to meet deadlines and putting out new shows and new products.  He had spent very little time listening or seeking the voice of God.  It took failure for him to realize that, “the Christian life wasn’t about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God.  It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience.  It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening.”

Phil also said, “God has taught me to focus not on results, but on obedience.  Not on the destination but on the journey.  He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all.  We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in Him alone…and God is enough for you.  But you can’t discover the truth of that statement while you’re clutching at your dreams.  You need to let them go.  Let yourself fall…and falling into God’s arms – relying solely on His power and will for your life – that’s where the fun starts.  That’s where you’ll find the ‘abundant life’ Jesus promised – the abundant life that doesn’t look anything like evangelical overload.  The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact.  It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”

“Let it go.  Give it up.  Let it die.”

I heard of the voice of God speaking to me through those words.

Chris and I still prayed for a miracle for Signarama.

No miracle came.

So we let it go.

We gave it up.

We let it die.

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We gave up on all we had been working and fighting for, and decided that God was enough for us.  If all of this time and struggle had no other purpose than to bring us closer to God…than it had been worth it.

It was still hard to walk through the process and navigate through all the questions.

How will we tell our employees, our investors, our creditors?

What will Chris do for work?

What will we do for money?

How will be pay our bills?

(Here  is a beautiful song that described what we were feeling; The Unmaking by Nicole Nordeman.)

We had been stripped down to the essentials and these truths became clear –

Our lives are about knowing God.

The only dream that matters right now is knowing God more.

When we seek Him, we will find Him.

So the death of Signarama became the beginning of a new life of walking with God.

 

She was Bald, Toothless, Covered with Scabs…and She was Indescribably Beautiful.

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I had developed quite an affection for my neighbor across the street, Sandy.  I had met her eight years ago when we moved into our house.  She was small and looked older than her years.  We invited her to neighborhood get-togethers, but she never came.  In her own words, she was “backwards, shy, and didn’t go out of her house much.”

Pretty soon her habit of being a hermit became a necessity.  Her heart started to fail because of years of smoking.   She had to get a pacemaker and could hardly walk across the street without becoming winded.  On those rare occasions that we saw each other outside, I was struck by the beauty and sweetness of her heart, buried beneath a wrinkled and toothless exterior.

I was amazed by how she was able to quit smoking cold turkey after 30 years of the habit.  I was touched when she called me on the phone because she had seen a rainbow outside that she thought my children would love to see.

Once I visited her in her cute little home that had been in her family for 100 years.  She showed me every Christmas card we had ever sent out, and I got the impression that she treasured them and considered us more than acquaintances.  We were good friends.  She could observe our comings and goings through her front window.   She noticed when the boys were playing outside and how much they were growing.  I realized that I should make the effort to visit her more often.

I really did try to reach out to her, but my visits were few and far between.  Every time I looked out my front window, I would imagine her alone in her home except for her faithful dog. I would pray for her.  Pray for her to not be lonely but to feel God’s presence.  Pray for her to feel his love for her.  As I prayed, day after day, my love for her grew.  She became my mission field.  I could not go out and do things with the freedom that I wanted to, having to be with my children and nurse the baby frequently, but I could pray for Sandy.

One night I felt the urgency to call her.  I had almost never called her.  In fact, I don’t call other people very often because I am afraid of bothering them and being a pest.  Maybe that is how Sandy feels, I thought.  Despite the fact that I had offered to help her time and again, she had never called me for help.  Perhaps she was afraid.

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It was late at night, but I knew her health was failing.  What if I missed an opportunity?  What if she was at home but in trouble?  The urge was so strong, that I just had to call.

She answered and was just fine.  But I got the chance to tell her that I had been praying for her and that God loved her so much.

A few months later, in the sticky heat of summer, I finally got over to visit her.  Her home was messy and so dustly, it was hard for me to breath.  I felt a bit sick as I sat there and chatted cheerfully.  How must she feel, with her bad heart and a chronic respiratory infection?  She had no energy to clean!  Plus she was connected to a bulky oxygen tank by a long tube in her nose.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help.  At first she said no.  Finally she told me that she had groceries in her truck that she had been unable to carry in from the morning.

I was appalled!  It had been 90 degrees that day.  Surely her groceries were ruined.  But I kept a smile on my face and said, “Sure, the boys and I would love to carry them in.”

We got all the groceries in. Thankfully the perishable items had been put into the fridge earlier.  I dumped the huge bag of dog food into the dog food dispenser and tried to help with anything else I could.  All the while Sandy was muttering, “I hate to ask people for help.”

I pleaded with her to call me the next time she went shopping.  I did not receive a call, but sometime later, Sandy’s best friend knocked on my door.  She looked terribly agitated and asked if she could sit.  I offered her a chair, but she never sat.  She stood and paced and rubbed her hands on her legs as she explained the reason for her visit.

“Did you hear the sirens last night?  Well, Sandy was back in her room using the large oxygen tank.  I don’t know why she did this, but she lit a lighter and the oxygen caught on fire.  She was burned all over her face, and her bed was burned.  She was able to call 911, but she was unresponsive when they came.  She is in the burn unit, and I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Her friend was so distressed, and now I was too!   Sandy’s health was so bad, could she possible live through this?  Had I lost my opportunity to tell her about Jesus?

I really prayed for Sandy over the next few days.  Had I shown her God’s love the way he had asked me too?  God gave me this verse.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 “I have appointed you as a watchman for the people of Israel; therefore listen to what I say and warn them for me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will die!’ and you don’t tell him what I say, so that he does not repent –that wicked person will die in his sins, but I will hold you responsible for his death.  But if you warn him to repent and he doesn’t, he will die in his sin, and you will not be responsible.”

I had always hesitated to lay out the gospel message when I thought that others couldn’t or wouldn’t receive it.  But here God was telling me that the outcome was not my responsibility.  I was simply responsible to do what he was asking me to do.

Amazingly, Sandy was back home within a few weeks.  I resolved to obey Jesus the best that I could.  I felt that he loved Sandy and just wanted me to introduce her to him.  I didn’t know if she knew him, if she believed in him at all.

I visited and called a few times a week, bringing her food and handmade cards and encouragement.  I wanted to make sure that I was there to help even if she couldn’t ask me for it.  I had some lovely times sitting in her cozy home (which was now bright and clean thanks to her very energetic best friend).  Sandy’s face was black with scabs.  Her head had been shaved.  Her body couldn’t get rid of all the fluids that they had pumped into her at the hospital, and she had blown up like a very uncomfortable balloon.  Her heart had gone from working at 25% to only 10%.  I wished that there was something I could do for her!  I asked her if I could pray for her and she let me.  Maybe Jesus would heal her to show her how much he loved her.  I tried to have faith that we could see a miracle!

“Jesus loves you so much, Sandy!” I told her.  “Do you know how much he loves you?”  I asked.  Here was my chance to introduce my friend Jesus to my friend Sandy.  I could tell her about how I met Jesus and ask if she had ever met him in that way.

“I don’t know if he loves me.  Things keep going wrong for me.  I am so sick.  I just want to be able to get out of the house and drive to the store or something.”

I felt the weight of her suffering.  I felt the power of her pain.  I had been going through a season of suffering as well, carrying many unanswered prayers and unanswered questions.  I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I wasn’t sure how to appease the sorrow of my own heart.  I knew that Jesus loved us, but I didn’t know how to explain how I knew.

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“That’s what I am praying for.  I pray you will feel better and better.”  That was all that I could think of to say.  Perhaps Jesus would heal her through the night and she would begin to see his goodness.  I would check back with her in a few days and try again to introduce her to Jesus.

Sadly, I never got the chance.  Some days later we saw an ambulance sitting in the street between our houses.  There were police all around.  My heart was heavy.  If she was truly having an emergency, the ambulance wouldn’t be sitting there like that.  The police wouldn’t talk to us about what was going on, but later that night we found out.

Sandy had simply collapsed and died.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had no more time to develop a friendship.  No more time to pray for her.  No more time to tell her my testimony and find out if she had one of her own.  I did not know the condition of her soul, if she trusted in Jesus and he carried her to heaven, or if she never knew him and she was separated from him forever.

All I knew was that I had not done what Jesus had asked me to.  I hadn’t introduced her to him.  I was distraught.  I felt like the most horrible evangelist there had ever been.  My mission field had been one person and I had failed.  I had failed Sandy and I had failed Jesus.

I talked to God about it.  How could I go through life knowing that there was something more that I could have done to save her?  How could I enjoy eternity if Sandy was not there?  How I longed to see her again.  How I longed to see her restored and renewed and healed.  I wanted to see her in all the glory and beauty that I KNEW was in her but could never be seen in this life.  I felt the value of her soul and grieved because the precious jewel that she was might be lost forever.

“Is she with you God?”

He hasn’t given me a clear answer yet.  I needed to feel the weight of my mistake and repent.  I needed it to push me closer to Jesus and closer to his heart.

I NEED to become a better evangelist!  I NEED to practice and be uncomfortable and try and try again.

What he did remind me of was this.  He knew that evangelism hasn’t been one of my gifts, normally being very shy myself.  He knew that this was my first big assignment (that I was aware of). He had factored in my weaknesses and failure into his plan.  He wanted me to learn from this and move on with more understanding and more confidence.  He did not want me to give up in guilt and despair.  He wanted me to move forward, being open to talk to anyone and everyone about him.

He reminded me of how far I had come.  Many places I have lived, I never gotten to know my neighbors at all!  Slowly I began to become more outgoing (with help from my husband).  In this neighborhood, I have a good friendship with most everyone on my block.

Over the years I had prayed and prayed and prayed again for Sandy’s salvation, for her comfort, for her healing.  The Great God, who loves Sandy infinitely more than I do, wouldn’t let those prayers go unanswered, would he?

All it would have taken from Sandy would have been one cry!

“Jesus!”

A cry in her heart or with her mouth and he would have been there, rushing in with his glorious presence, wrapping her with his love and immortality!  I am sure of it.

Whether she ever cried out to him, I do not know.  I do know that I miss my friend.  Instead of her white car with the American flag flying from the window; there is an ugly, rusted dumpster in front of her house, gathering the discarded pieces of a life. Instead of seeing the candles in her windows, all I see is darkness. I don’t know if I will ever see her again.

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What I do know is that our obedience matters.  It has eternal consequences that are too heavy for me to even understand.  Yet our obedience has the potential to bring more joy and glory and reward than we can even imagine!  And we can only be obedient if we are listening and watching what our Father is doing.

Do you know Jesus?  He is my friend and he has been the best friend I have ever known.  He has never left me and he never will.  He is with you right now and will be with you forever if you want him to.  Can I introduce you to him?

Nobody Knows in Advance Which Day Will Be the Day of Their Death

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For my Grammy, that day was February 4, 2011.  Sometimes you get an inkling that this life is drawing to a close.  With Grammy, I was completely shocked.  I was thinking that she could live another ten years, being from a family of long livers.  She was even improving and starting to eat and walk again.  I had no idea that February 4th was her day.  I simply thought it was my last day with her for a time, since I was flying back to Pennsylvania on February 5th.  I am so thankful for that last day with her.

Grammy was cozy in her new room at Harbor House, a memory care facility.  She was confused about a lot of things, but she kept on insisting that she was going to move back to her apartment at Primrose.  She had spent the Christmas holiday in rehab after a stroke.  She was unable to get any of her mail.  So she and I spent a long time on her favorite love seat, reading every single Christmas card she had received.  I was amazed by how many people still sent her cards and how detailed their letters were.  She remembered every single person and told me nice things about each one.

Then I read to her the scripture God had given me when I was praying for her before this trip, Isaiah 43:1-4.  I saw Jesus carrying her through this strange new trial like a lamb on his shoulders and he was saying, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  You are precious and honored in my sight and I LOVE YOU!”

Grammy paused from her talking for a moment.  I wondered what was going through her mind, and I hoped that she felt God’s love.  Then she started right back into discussing moving back to Primrose.

Soon she became very tired, and we tucked her into bed for an afternoon nap.  She looked comfortable and peaceful.  I kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye.

Chris and I spent the evening with relatives.   What a wonderful evening we had!  We returned our rental car since a shuttle would be taking us to the airport in the morning.  Our relatives drove us back to our rented room at Primrose.  Chris and I were so worn out from our busy week.  We wanted to just flop into bed and sleep as much as we could before our early morning flight.  However, we still had to pack our bags.  As we were getting everything ready to return home, we received a phone call.  A young nurse from Harbor House informed us with a shaky voice that Grammy had passed away!  She had slept away the afternoon.  One of the nurses had tried to rouse her for dinner, but Grammy said she was too tired and just wanted to keep on sleeping.  When they checked on her again, she had no pulse.

My heart started to beat fast. Was this supposed to be happening?  Grammy dead, this soon?   I had left too early in the day!  I should have stayed at her side all evening.   I had missed the moment when she left this earth.  I immediately felt sad and guilty.  Chris quickly pushed those thoughts aside.

“There was no way that you could have known.  You did just what you were supposed to do this week.”

I began to feel a peace fill me.  All I could do was what I had done.  Grammy lived a long life and died peacefully in her sleep.  She didn’t have to suffer.  May we all have a death so sweet!

We called our relatives and asked them if they could drive us back to Harbor House.  We wanted to say our final goodbyes.  I had never experienced death so closely before.  When I entered Grammy’s room, she looked just the same as I had left her, peaceful and snuggled under her blankets.  I expected her to open her eyes and see me standing there, yet she was still.  I felt that I was standing on holy ground.  Jesus himself had just been there to gather Grammy into his loving arms and carry her home.  His presence still lingered, and it was so sweet.

I really couldn’t know Grammy’s personal relationship with Jesus, what transpired in the depths of her heart and spirit before she died.  But the presence of Jesus in the room gave me the peace that I would see her again in heaven.  None of us can make it to heaven on our own.  It is the same as trying to get to the moon by jumping our very highest.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try or how well we train, we just can’t reach the moon.  Jesus lived and died in order to carry us there.  He is alive right now, constantly loving us and praying for us that we will trust him to do it.  So let’s do less jumping and more trusting. There is nothing to fear and EVERYTHING  to look forward to. For those who trust in Him, death is a reward and it is holy.

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

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My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

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All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

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He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

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I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

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In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

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He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

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This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

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I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

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I love you Dad!

The Power of Praising Through Pain

Doris

I attended the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend of mine.  This friend is my age, and we have known each other since junior high school.   It was much too soon for her to have to say goodbye to her mom.  I was deeply touched by everyone who shared memories and thoughts and prayers.  I marveled at the joy and pain mingling together as we sang songs of worship.  Our pastor stood up to share. He began to talk about how we each encounter situations in life that don’t make sense, that seem too difficult to be God’s best for us.  We all ask God the question, “Why?”  He listed the many famous men of the Bible who asked why.  Then he made a statement that cut to the core of my being.

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“There was one ‘why’ that swallowed up all the other ‘whys’,” he said, and I instantly knew what he was talking about.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, became sin and cried out from the anguish of his soul, “My God, WHY have you forsaken me?”

Jesus knows how we feel as we navigate through this journey called being human.  We all suffer pain, heartbreak, sickness, and loss.  We all have our faith shaken and our knowledge stripped and our understanding emptied until all we can say is, “Why?”  Jesus was at the very same place Himself, and He put himself in that place on purpose so that we didn’t have to be there alone.  He is always right there with us, whispering, “I understand…and someday you will too.”

And love’s voice answers from a cross:

I bear it all with you;

I share with you in all your loss, I will make all things new.

None suffer in their sin alone,

I made – I bear – and I atone.” – Hannah Hurnard

 

God made us for Eden which means “delight” and “pleasure.”  We were made to live in perfect shalom; peace, nothing broken, nothing missing.  But our world was plunged into darkness and put under a curse because of sin.  The effects of that gloom always seem so wrong and unfair and foreign to us.  That is because they are.  We were created for something better, something perfect.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While we are here in the Shadowlands, we have a unique and very short-lived opportunity that we will never have again once we have crossed over into glorious eternity.  We have the privilege to have faith in something we can’t see.  Faith in a good and amazing God.  Faith that all things will be redeemed and restored.  We have the chance to touch our Father’s heart as we praise Him through our pain.

Rick Joyner received a vision from God in which this was shown to him in a marvelous way.

“I saw the Father.  Millions and millions were attending Him.  His glory was so great and the power of His presence so awesome that I felt the whole earth would not have even measured as a grain of sand before Him…His robe was composed of millions and millions of stars which were alive…I knew I could dwell before Him forever and never cease to marvel; there was no higher purpose in the universe than to worship Him…

“Then I was in a different place, beholding a worship service in a little church building…Everyone in the battered little room…were experiencing severe trials in their lives, but they were not even thinking of them here.  They were not praying about their needs.  They were all trying to compose songs of thanksgiving to the Lord.  They were happy and their joy was sincere.

“I saw heaven, and all of heaven was weeping.  I then saw the Father again and knew why heaven was weeping.  They were weeping because of the tears in the eyes of the Father.  This little group of seemingly beaten down, struggling people had moved God so deeply that He wept.  They were not tears of pain, but of joy…

“Jesus turned to me and said, “When you worship without seeing His glory, in the midst of your trials, this is worship in Spirit and truth…Do not waste your trials.  Worship the Father – not for what you will get, but to bring Him joy.  You will never be stronger than when you bring Him joy, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

One Sunday at church I was inspired by a testimony of a woman who had been miraculously healed of cancer.  I love it when God’s power is so visibly demonstrated here on the imperfect earth among broken humanity.  I clapped and cheered for this one soul who had received a death sentence and then had that terrible pronouncement revoked.

But I was deeply touched and moved and undone by something else.  A man who had recently lost his wife to cancer was raising his hands to praise God for the healing of another.  I felt my heart deepen and stretch to try to contain the grandeur of that one small act.  I thought I heard heaven weeping because this man had so touched the Father’s heart with his praise.  The greatest victories of the Christian life occur when we suffer crushing earthly loss and still praise God!  The “Whys” get swallowed up by such praise and we get catch a glimpse of the world we were really created for.

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