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?