As I happily flipped over to the next page of my scripture-a-day-little-spiral-flippy-thing the other morning, the words caught me off guard: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)
I’ve always heard it – at funerals, mostly. Death is precious. Go figure. Babies are precious…but death? Not so much.
It’s so hard for us mortals to even comprehend — how could God count as precious that which causes the rest of us such pain? And yet, it reminds me of the time I asked my mom if it bothered her that so many of her friends were dying at this stage in her life. Her face literally lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh, no! That’s our HOPE!” My perspective on death was instantly changed that day. As the days of mom’s life grew dimmer and she had her sights fixed on heaven, it became clear to me that the death of a saint is not only precious in the sight of the Lord, it is precious to the saint as well.
Do you struggle with the preciousness of death?
It’s funny how memories come flooding in when you least expect it. Sometimes they are sweet, evoking a tender smile or even laughter in response. Sometimes they are bittersweet, with a grimace or twinge of regret coming along for the ride. And sometimes, those memories are just so vibrant and real that you’d swear your loved one was about to step into the room and join in the fun. That happened to me today. Most unexpectedly. I was completely taken by surprise.
No forethought of avoiding sweet Easter memories of mom and dad’s church days went into the decision to visit my niece and nephew’s church in Glendora and enjoy Easter worship with the whole family. It never occurred to me that Easter would be anything other than the big, busy worshipthenhavefamilydinnertogether day it has always been. No matter that usually my birthday is celebrated along with that day, or that mom and dad have shared every Easter with us since the beginning of time. Nosirree, there were no misgivings about the day at all.
In the six months since daddy went to heaven so quickly and unexpectedly, I have barely had time to reminisce about his contributions on this earth. But one thing I will always, always remember fondly is the way he led the congregation in singing. Normally a bit of a wallflower, when my dad was behind the pulpit leading worship – he was a force to be reckoned with! There was no one like him… I find it almost impossible to describe. He would begin a song with the normal old-school arm waving to the time of the music, then progress to engaging everyone in the room with his enthusiasm and genuine love for the hymns and choruses, old or new.
I saw a glimpse of my daddy today. At 10 o’clock sharp, the band started in with a solemn, “Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.” Now mind you, this was a very contemporary worship band playing a very updated version of the old (written in the late 1800’s) hymn, yet I could see my dad on that platform, gearing up for the song’s climax, “Up from the grave He arose; With a mighty triumph o’er His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
I don’t know if the tears flowed because of the overwhelming sweet memories and missing my daddy at that moment, or if I was just so grateful to Jesus for rising from that grave and rescuing us from our lost lives, or maybe a combination of both — but there was now no point to having spent 15 minutes on makeup that morning. No going back now; and besides, as the very next song began, “Christ the Lord is risen today…..” (late 1700’s, Charles Wesley, by the way) another flood of memories swept over me. Those two songs set the tone for me, and gave me a chance to remember some very sweet moments about my dad. Though not a musician, his love for music was contagious. From my earliest memories I suppose his love of the hymns instilled in me a sense of excitement for worship; of anticipation that this is the place where God dwells ~ this is what He longs to hear from us. This is God’s party. And He wants us to revel in it until we join Him in the ultimate celebration in Glory. Party on, dad!
“Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 146:2 NIV
PS: Don’t you LOVE the photo? It was taken at mom & dad’s retirement service in 1988. It just occurred to me that all the people visible in this picture are together in heaven right now – most recently (and prematurely, by our earthly standards) John on the accordian. Sure do miss you all…