In 1990, I had my first experience at the bedside of someone who died. It was in an intensive care unit. The family had all gathered. The rules about how many people could be with the patient were waived, and I stood there among them. I had never done anything like this before. I shared some scriptures. I prayed. I quietly touched the shoulders of family members as they wept. I cried with them. Mostly, we just stood there in stunned amazement that a great lady of faith was nearing the end of a long struggle. Soon she would be at rest. Soon this family would have to find a way to walk out of that room into a world that was forever changed.
Last night, those memories were relived. It was another hospital. Another person in a different hospital bed. Another family gathered around waiting and weeping. But the feelings were the same. As we painfully watched at a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend slowly slip from this life into the next. I spoke a few words of scripture. I prayed. I sang a little bit of a hymn. I touched the family members on their shoulders to remind them they were not alone. They wept, and I wept. And they walked out of that room into a world somehow less full than it had been.
Death is part of this life we live. We don’t like to dwell on it. Most of us want to put it off as long as we can, but we know it’s out there somewhere. We don’t know how. We don’t know when. We just know that someday…
I cannot imagine standing with grieving family members and having nothing to offer them. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not speak of hope in a time when hope seems so distant. I cannot fathom what death would be like if we did not have the promise that we will live because Jesus lives, that death is defeated and victory is assured. Standing the midst of a grieving family, I can declare with the utmost confidence that death is not the end; in truth, it is only the end of the beginning. To say goodbye to a child of God here only means that we will be welcomed by him or her when our lives are done.
God has made a way for each of us to enter into eternal rest with Him. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Without trusting in Jesus Christ, there is no hope in eternity. We cannot trust in our own goodness. We cannot trust in our own religiosity. And surely I hope that you’re not just trusting in luck. There is only one way to the Father and that is through the Son. Without Him, we truly have no hope. With Him, we have a hope that not even death can take away.
Goodbye, my dear brother Bob. I will see you again when God calls me home.