Their ages: 94 and 84. They have been friends, Sunday school members, and sisters in the faith for years. And now they were saying goodbye.
I stood aside with my children close and watched as these two dear women embraced. It was a happy day–a going away lunch as one sweet widow packed up her long life to move in with her daughter in another state. Yet, as they bent their white-topped heads together in a final hug, I could feel an urgency here that isn’t necessarily present when younger friends part ways. At their ages, these women seemed to have a sense that they may never see each other again on this side of eternity.
Through tears, the younger of the two smiled: “We’ll meet again in Heaven.” They squeezed each others’ hands knowingly.
Once a week I visit this precious Heaven-dreamer. Eternity feels so near to her that she can spend most of our time together describing to me in detail what it may be like. She devotes hours of her day to dwelling on her eternal future, almost as if she can reach out and touch it.
For her, Heaven is a near reality. It is close, and she is looking forward to experiencing it at last. She lives a full life and serves the Lord in all kinds of ways. But one blessing of old age is her growing connection to the future that she knows is coming. It is the essence of hope, this sure belief in a painless world of sweet reunions and Christ in His full glory. It is what can bring a genuine smile to an aged face. And it is a motivator to run this race well, even through the pains of all kinds, and finish strong. Perhaps there is no greater hope in the Christian faith than the hope of one who recognizes that she is running her final miles toward glory.
The two friends stepped back with smiles and began to gather up their belongings. It was time to go home. I glanced at Chad across the room and saw that his eyes, too, were filled with tears. Goodbyes that are backed by the promise of Heaven are beautiful. Our eyes met for a second and through our tears we smiled a little ruefully. Goodbyes are inevitable. One day even we will part ways, one remaining to finish the race while the other moves into a glorious forever.
The lunch was over. The goodbyes were done. We washed dishes and wiped tables and gathered up our children like one grabs for seashells in the surf. Heaven usually seems like a distant future, but in this moment, standing in the church fellowship hall on an August Sunday, somehow it seemed a little closer. A little clearer. The hope of it. The confidence in whatever God has in store. Maybe this is the beginning of living with true joy, remembering that Heaven is a nearer reality than we think.