The last time I saw her, she couldn’t speak. We had been there, in that nicely appointed nursing home room, just a few weeks earlier, and we talked about summer plans and politics and what it was like to die. She wasn’t afraid, she told us. But the last time we saw her on this earth, she could only nod and squeeze our hands and I could see she was putting out enormous effort just to accomplish those two things.
She was a good friend to us. On the day she died, Chad and I were at preteen camp, surrounded by all the noise and life and drama of kids who are on the brink of the teen years. It felt like such a contrast to the quiet of death, to the silent nursing home room where she spent her last days.
She’s not in a quiet place now. In fact, she instantly moved from that silent room where her body stopped to a place roaring with joy. It’s a place filled with the unearthly sounds of worship, a place where every moment is saturated with singing, with true words about the King of Kings. Holy, holy, holy…
She didn’t consider herself a holy person, but she had hope in the Holy One. How else can a woman stare death squarely in the face and say with confidence that she is not afraid? Her faith extended far beyond her feelings about her own worth or her own weaknesses or her own difficult life. Her faith left room for the possibility that God loves her more than she could ever really fathom or understand, and I’m convinced that on the day she stepped into His presence, she felt the complete depth of His love for her for the first time ever.
We are all prone to doubt that we’re truly and absolutely loved. We’re likely to consider ourselves disappointments, mediocre Christians with lackluster faith. We have a hard time imagining a God who loves us just because He chooses to, and not because of what we have or haven’t done. Yet, that is the God that my friend met face to face last week–the God who loves, better and more deeply and more true than any human being can love or dream of being loved. When I think about her stepping out of her precious, bony little shell that had been ravaged by cancer, I picture her taking her first step into a true knowledge of the all-encompassing, perfect love of Christ. And it makes me smile, because she is so much more loved than she ever dared believe, although the hope was always there. Heaven is hope realized. Heaven is true love realized. One day all those who are in Christ will understand that love the way she does now.
I’ll miss her smile, her wry humor, the way that she always considered herself the least deserving, and the way that she showed a dying world a glimpse of what God’s love looks like. Today, she is fully embraced by that warm, flawless love in the realest possible way. She is loved, now and forever. And so are we.