Last week, while working in the backyard, I chanced to speak with one of our neighbors. There is only a wire fence separating our properties and talking across it makes for good contact. “Bob,” our neighbor, was weeding his garden on his hands and knees. Quite a feat actually because he is in his middle eighties. When I strolled over, he hoisted himself upright and we chatted about the weather, about the weeds and about our children.
“I’ve got to do something today,” he inserted into the conversation, “that I’ve been putting off for a long time.”
“What’s that, Bob?” I asked.
“I’ve got to bury my wife,” he answered.
I was floored for a moment. My husband and I knew that his wife had died some years ago before we had moved into the neighborhood.
“Bury your wife?” I repeated.
“Yes, and last week I dreamed that she told me: ‘Bob, it’s about time.'”
I really had no words and stared at him.
“We’re going to the cemetery this afternoon to bury her ashes,” he clarified.
It was all I could come up with.
“My daughter’s coming along. My wife’s always wanted to be buried in the local cemetery here, the one by the Mennonite church.”
We stood in silence for a moment before he continued.
“I contacted the gal over at the church who’s in charge of the cemetery and she said it was fine.”
It was a neutral comment.
“Yes, but there was one problem. My wife, you see, was born Catholic and the priest said that the burial ground had to be consecrated. But when I mentioned that to the gal over at the Mennonite church, she said: ‘Bob, ground’s ground,’ and that’s all there is to it.”
“She was right,” I agreed.
“Yes, I thought so too. So this afternoon’s the time.”
“You must miss your wife a lot.”
“Every day,” Bob responded.
“You know,” I said, and at this point my husband had also walked up to the fence, “if your wife believed in the Lord Jesus and that He forgave all her sins, then the moment she died she was with Him.”
“She did,” he said.
“And if you believe that too, Bob,” I tacked on, “then you will someday see the Lord Jesus and your wife as well.”
“I know,” he said.
My husband then asked Bob if he ever read the Bible.
“It’s a difficult book to read,” he responded, “and so many people interpret different parts of it in different ways. How are you to know what’s right and what is meant?”
“It’s true,” my husband allowed, “and some interpretations are wrong. But basically if you read the Bible, Bob, you will understand most of what you read and it will help you in living.”
“There are so many things,” Bob came back, “and where do you start?”
“By talking to your neighbors,” I said.
And we left it at that, until next time. And Bob went to bury the ashes of his wife.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), used the lyrics of an unknown poet to compose the music to one of his wonderful, melodious works. The words ask death to come quickly and to bear the singer to heaven to see the face of his Savior. It is a moving song with an emotional text. If you can sing it, how blessed indeed you are!
Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest!
Come lead me to peace
because I am weary of the world.
O come! I wait for you,
come soon and lead me,
close my eyes.
Come, blessed rest!
As Paul said in Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Just last week we received notice that a dear friend had died. Betty was in her eighties and I was asked to write a remembrance. Betty was a friend I loved dearly. Her middle name could have been “helpful” and she was full of faith. There would only be a small service at the funeral home and perhaps people would be there who had no knowledge of Jesus. This is what I wrote.
Betty – a remembering and a looking forward to
“Faith” Hebrews 11 tells us, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
It is a faithful friend who always points you towards things hoped for, and who tells you of her conviction of things not seen. Such a friend was Betty. She constantly pointed me to the protection of our heavenly Father.
Betty and I shared thoughts and ideas for the last twenty years or so. Letters were often sent to her address and, much to my regret, I can’t do that any longer. Not much of a letter writer herself, she would phone me and we would chat. It was great! She can’t phone me any longer. And yet it is at this point that I recall Hebrews 11 and 12.
Hebrews 11 is one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible and one of the most encouraging. But Hebrews 12 follows hard on its heels and shines just as brightly if not more so. It begins with, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… let us look to Jesus….” That is to say, since we have access to so many ordinary people who lived faithful lives before we did, we can never use the excuse that we were not told about Jesus.
Betty lived before us; Betty was an ordinary housewife; Betty was gifted with remarkable and sturdy faith; and Betty is now part of the Hebrews 12 cloud of witnesses. She is now one of those who surrounds us and points us to look to Jesus.
Betty ran her earthly race, a race that was often marked with difficulties and loneliness, with endurance. She unfailingly looked for and spoke of Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of her faith. She did so for the joy that was before her, the joy of going to heaven to see, not just her family, but her Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we miss Betty, let us remember her Creator and Savior. For she was with Him in Paradise at the exact moment she drew her last breath. I’m thankful to God that I knew her and that I will see her again.
Christine Farenhorst’s most recent book might be her best yet! Read our review of “The New Has Come” here, and check out most any online retailer to order a copy.