Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heaven's Gate

Two years ago this morning marked the end of one of the sweetest experiences of my lifetime.  With my siblings (except for my brother Ed who had already walked through death into everlasting life) and most of our spouses, I spent ten wonderful days walking my wonderful Daddy right up to the gate of Heaven!  It was truly amazing, and a model for the death experience in a Christian family if circumstances permit.

I know circumstances don't permit in every case.  That August Saturday 23 years ago when Ed walked into Heaven, I was 3 states away and only got there after he was gone. His death taught me a lesson about death: that death (especially when it appears untimely from a human perspective) is HARD!  Ed was a Marine of Marines!  He was many other things too and my closest sib in age.  He had served in combat in many war theaters including Vietnam for 3 "tours" including one while he was still a midshipman at the US Naval Academy but that's an interesting story for another time.  He had stared death in the face with nary a scratch. 

Three weeks after he retired from the USMC he was bush-hogging his pasture on the farm where he retired with his family in NC.  He didn't know his life on this earth was almost over that Saturday morning.  He planned to begin the next phase of life with a new job and to continue building his farmhouse.  God had other plans:  the tractor turned over and crushed his chest.  He was in Heaven a few hours later. We celebrated his life and worshipped our great God who gave him life and then took it away at his memorial service a few short days later!  At the end of that service, we sang Handel's Hallelujah.  It was Hallelujah time even when it didn't feel like it!

22 years later on an August Tuesday we celebrated eternal life again at my dad's memorial service.  We sang hymns.  We were comforted with God's Word and truth as two sons-in-law pastors and another pastor led us.  We remembered a life well-lived!  For me, the memorable thing about Daddy's Heaven journey wasn't that worship service.  It was the days leading up to it.

July 26 my brother called and said Daddy had a large sub-dural hematoma (blood clot on his brain).  They were moving him to the main hospital and operating as soon as possible.  We begin the trek from Pittsburgh to SC early the next morning and went straight to ICU.  And, so it began........

Mother and Daddy were living in my sister's home.  After the surgery it became increasingly apparent that Daddy wasn't going to climb the huge mountain back to a measure of health.  It was just too steep a climb with advanced Parkinson's and all the rest!  A week later on August 1st we took him home in an ambulance with hospice. 

In the hospital and at home we were Team Robeson.  We walked shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart watching the winding down of Daddy's life on earth.  We prayed.  We sang hymns.  We cried.  We hugged.  We talked and remembered.  We said many things to Daddy and each other - those things of the heart that need words.  And, then early Sunday morning, August 5th, we all stood around his bed with our dear mother and waited at Heaven's gate for him to take that final step from this life to the next!

Death is what it is.  It was never meant to be in God's good creation.  Sin brought death.  And so, we all die.  But, for those who walk with Jesus who trust in Him ALONE, He is the Way to eternal life!  That's the comfort beyond death, and it IS enough!
*picture is from newspaper shortly after Daddy's return from war.  He is holding his Japanese sword and me.

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