There are many reasons that I’m thankful to the pastorate, to this position that I’m often surprised to find myself in. And one of the top is that I experience the full circle of life, over and over again.

The church is an extraordinary place, because we don’t let things pass by. We mark them with gathering, ceremony, and prayer. Those things which are so monumental for a person, the church has the dignity to stop and notice that it’s happened. Like birth, yearly cycles, and death.

Before I became a pastor, I thought that everyone died in grand fashion, with family and friends gathered around the bed. But often, it doesn’t happen that way. Women and men die without any family. Their friends have all gone before them, and hardly anyone notices. Except the church. We stop, give thanks for life, and stand in the hope of resurrection. Sometimes there are only a handful of us.

I’ve learned so much about death and what a miracle it is. I’ve noticed how some people slip into it, like it’s a beautiful dream. Others fight it, valiantly, until their moments end. One wonderful woman spent weeks in hospice care, unconscious, until I was reading her Scriptures, and she whispered to me, “What’s it going to be like?”

I answered her, honestly, saying, “I don’t know.” But then I knew I could do better than that…I mean, really. I remembered that my husband, Brian, often says that we’re like Shamans, we make the way for death. And so I knew that it was a crucial time to stir up a little more hope. I went on, “I imagine what it’s going to be like. Neither death nor life can separate you from the love of God. And that love that emanates from God in creation, will surround you and embrace you. And you’ll be all caught up in it.”

“What about heaven?”

I breathed deeply, and continued. “Personally, I don’t like crystal fountains or streets of gold.” She agreed. “But I do like green pastures and still waters. And I know that your soul will be restored.”

At that moment, she took over the description, barely audible, “There are pools.” Her eyes were closed, and she was smiling.

“What?” I leaned over her bed, straining to hear her.

“There are pools. There are pools,” Those were her final words before she drifted off again. She died later that day. And I was reminded again of the miracle of death.

So, what do you believe about heaven? How do you think it’s going to happen? What would you have said to her?


5 thoughts on “Imagine

  1. Pools are good.

    I’m also not big on golden streets. I would love to see the people I’ve lost, especially my mom, but if that’s not how it goes, it’s okay. Peace. Calm.

    I once sat with a clergy colleague dying of lung cancer and as he was dying, he said, “It feels like walking from a smoky room into a clean, fresh place where I could finally breathe.”

  2. Carol,
    That was so beautifully written and captures the essence of what ministry with and for one another is all about. It is a ministry of presence – don’t you think? Jesus came to be Immanuel – God who is with us. We minister to be with one another. You were with her and brought her hope. Amen. That is all that matters. We can argue over such insignificant things.

    I have found Psalm 23 speaks to everybody in times of death and loss. Even for those who have stayed away from church – when Psalm 23 is read and prayed it stirs up something within people that is rooted within their soul. Thy rod and thy staff – they comfort me. Amen and amen….Thank you!

  3. Mark Twain wrote a great book called Letters From the Earth. It is a collection of letters written by Satan to the angels in heaven. He describes what he finds walking the earth.

    In the way humans describe heaven, he writes, “In man’s heaven everybody sings! The man who did not sing on earth sings there; the man who could not sing on earth is able to do it there. This universal singing is not casual, not occasional, not relieved by intervals of quiet; it goes on, all day long, and every day, during a stretch of twelve hours. And everybody stays; whereas on earth the place would be empty in two hours.
    Meantime, every peron is playing on a harp-those millions and millions!-whereas not more than twenty in the thousand of them could play an instrument in the earth, or ever wanted to.”

  4. Bottom line: we have created a heaven that not many of us would be interested in.

    I think your response was great.

    You had written a couple weeks ago about asking questions instead of giving answers.

    This was a great example of giving just enough of an answer. Good work.

  5. Yeah. It’s a strange thought, isn’t it? Everyone gets wings, and then they float on fluffy clouds with hand-held harps….

    I had a homiletics professor who decided to write a book on heaven and hell, so he asked different pastors, (mostly progressive sorts, since conservatives don’t shy away from the issue) what they preach about. He said that many pastors were absolutely furious that he would ask.

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