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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Going Home

You never know when an ordinary day is going to turn extraordinary. Yesterday was that day for me. I had a long, tedious day at the office, followed by a delicious dinner that I practically inhaled in order to spend a few quick moments with my daughter before she went to bed, and then I was off to praise band practice at the church. To say that I had little left to give is a major understatement. By that point in the day it is all I can do to just show up, go through the drumming motions, and drag myself to bed when it is all over. Fortunately, yesterday, something else was forcing me to pay a little more attention.

As I was sitting on my drum stool, waiting for the rest of the praise team to get their microphones and amplifiers from squeaking and squealing, I noticed a petite, white haired older lady standing with the choir director. Her hair was the color of the snow and she gripped her choir folder nervously as she gazed at the woman speaking to her.

"You are going to fit in just fine," the director said to her. "It just seems a little intense right now because we are getting ready for the choral competition in a few weeks. Stick in there, you are going to love it and we love you." The woman seemed unconvinced as she rolled her shoulders in, looking downward as she stepped down from the choir loft.

"Well the Praise Team always needs more singers if you are willing to get here at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings," I said to her, hoping to lighten her mood a little. Her face lit up as she walked over to me, explaining that after holding down two jobs for over forty years she did not want to ever have to intentionally wake before 10 a.m..

"I completely understand. Every Sunday, when I really want to stay tucked in nice and warm under the covers, the only thing that gets me up is the thought that it is time to praise Jesus," I said with a laugh. "The voice in my head says, 'Get out of bed you lazy bum!'... and I always do, but it is hard." Those few seconds of sharing allowed her to open up about missing her home in New Jersey because her husband was still there.

"Your husband is still living in New Jersey while you moved down here?" I asked, confused as to why after being married for 63 years that living separately would be even be an option.

"No, he died last year," she tearfully said. "So he is still there and I am here. I just want to go home." My heart broke for the woman as she relived her moments with him; telling me their story: how she had taken care of him while he had been sick the last twenty years and how she worked two jobs to be able to put their daughter through school. "His last day," she said, "he wanted to take a shower. He could barely stand on his own and was legally blind. I said no, it was too late, I would just clean him up in the bathroom." The woman turned and looked away for a moment.

"When I was done he got up and walked to the bedroom. He didn't say one word to me, just kept moving. I told him to stop and let me help him," her voice quivered. "When I got to the bedroom he was looking up into the corner of the ceiling with his arms outstretched and the next second he fell to the floor. I thought he was joking and threatened to call 911 if he didn't help me get him up onto the bed, but he said nothing. At first I couldn't believe it was happening, not like this, not now. After shaking him for a few minutes he still laid there limp, not moving, so I called for help and when the police arrived they pronounced him dead."

I tried to not let my jaw drop as I listened her story. "You mean to tell me you witnessed your husband with his arms outstretched as he was being taken into heaven?" I was completely in awe and holding back my own tears.

"I just can't believe he didn't even say anything to me," she said, obviously still drowning in grief, sorrow, and self pity. She still seemed too wrapped up in the pain of losing her husband to realize how powerful an event she had the privilege of witnessing: God reaching down and pulling the spirit into heaven. I don't judge her because I can't understand the kind of intense sadness that accompanies that level of loss. But all I could think of was how many people fear death, just that unknown feeling of what actually happens: is it painful or terrifying? Am I heading upstairs or downstairs? Will I be ready to leave the people I love? But this woman got to see what actually happens... her husband reaching up his arms like a child wanting to be picked up and his spirit leaving his body to be with the Lord. I can't imagine anything more comforting or soothing than knowing for sure that is what happens when you die. You are in fact going home.

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