And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
~ John 14:3
Yesterday I visited a close friend in the hospital who has decided to only proceed with comfort care as she has exhausted all treatments. I had not seen her in some time. When I entered the room, I was greeted by one of her children. We all seemed to recognize the journey of this life is drawing to a close, and tears just naturally began to gather in our eyes, as we smiled, hugged and said our initial words.
One of the things that they don't really teach you about ministry in seminary is that your presence as a pastor in a faith community, can create lasting relationships. I thought about meeting this person's parents when I first interviewed for the position as "Pastor," for this small faith community near the Gulf. They were among a group of elders that reached out and welcomed me. I enjoyed listening to their stories of growing up in Kansas, going to the "city" for the first time, never having seen stop lights, and what it was like to encounter traffic while trying to cross a street without knowing to wait for the signal to change. Over the years I met their children, grandchildren, buried this friend's husband, and I visited them all at various times when a health crisis would arise.
While I have not served this faith community in some time, our relationship has continued, often in light conversation and "howdy-do's."
Yesterday was the culmination of all of these experiences. It was the reality that a milestone was going to arrive whether we were ready for it or not, and that final words, lasting words, needed to be shared.
I always remind people that I am in the business of teaching others how to say, "Good bye." It still remains hard for me at times to say "Good bye" when it comes to my own friends and family.
I am reminded that our faith continues to bring us closer together, and that eternity has already presented itself to us. I sometimes wonder how different these milestones would be if we realized that our time in eternity means that we just have a change in location, and that death is the means by which we move. It is not a finality.
Jesus tells the disciples that he goes to prepare a place for us. I have to remind myself that there is that place for my friend, and for me.
While I will miss this person, and I am sad for all those who love and care for this person, I know that eternity will be a greater blessing knowing that we will all be together once more.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.