I have a friend who is in the end stages of an advanced disease. She and her husband have been so brave and honest. They never pretend a lightheartedness that they don’t feel. Instead they focus daily on the very presence of God in their tortured midst. Emails from them often ask us to pray that “we not be offended” as the author Amy Carmichael prayed too. Loving one another hurts because at one time or another people leave, sometimes for their forever home. To be truthful, losing someone else I love is scary to me. I feel frustrated because I feel so two dimensional! I so dearly want to peek over the curtain that separates all that I can see and touch and feel from the eternal dimension. Just a glimpse of streets of gold would be so encouraging. I’ll admit it-I’m the female version of Thomas. Yes, I’d have been the tacky disciple who wanted to see the scars on Jesus’ hands. I feel as though heaven is ‘right there’ but that I’m ill equipped to sense it. Just as I don’t have ears capable of hearing humpback whale song because it’s far too low or the capability of hearing a dog whistle because it’s too high, I don’t have the eyes or proper senses to see and experience heaven…yet. But, I’m small and irrevocably human and, I want that reassurance like a child wants to know that their mother is in the same room. In fact this is one of the more frequent conversations I have with God.
I pray for my friends continually throughout the day. Every now and then, I send an email. I try to be brave and not shy away from the hard topics. I’d guess if I were near death, I wouldn’t waste time on the weather and I hope I’m doing this friend thing right. My heart longs not to add to the grief but in some small way to share it so that it’s less heavy for them.
As I’ve prayed over the last week, little fragments of a poem would zip through my head and I’d catch them with my mental butterfly net. Sometimes, they required a bit of chasing and phrases remained just out of reach. So yesterday I sat down with a prayerful heart to write. This is the poem that I believe God gave me for her. I want to share this so that it might be of comfort to others who are running their races.
Streets of Gold
You’re going first and I can’t yet come to run the streets of gold,
Who could have guessed that precious you would never get to grow old?
As diamonds reflect a source of light and throw rainbows all around,
So you have reflected our Savior’s love across life’s fertile ground.
Each blossom that blooms from the touch of your soul sings of God’s perfect grace,
And when you arrive at your forever home, I imagine the joy on his face.
No one can run our races for us-each step is a battle won,
I know when you cross the finish line you’ll hear, “Priscilla, my daughter, well done.”
I pray that God hastens your journey home so you can be set free,
Although selfishly I know I’ll long for the comfort you have been to me.
The Bible references heaven as a literal place. Revelations gives us measurements, we know about the number of gates His city will have, and even what they are made of. Jesus himself promised, “I go to prepare a place for you.” I’m certain that when she arrives, there will be a chorus of raised voices welcoming her home. All of the hard things that happened here won’t matter any more and she’ll no more dwell on them as I do on vaccinations I received as a baby. It will be like a mist that burned off as the sun arose and it will all be clear. She won’t have a body that limits her anymore and she won’t have trouble breathing. She will be free and I don’t begrudge her that at all! I’m going to miss her until I see her again. THAT’S the hard part because life is full of waiting and uncertainty. But until we see each other again, I will anticipate the joy of running on streets of gold with my friend.
Author’s Note: Priscilla left this earth for eternity Sunday, January 3, 2016. I shared this with her and her husband when I wrote the piece in October. Through it all, Priscilla and her husband chose to find God’s provisions in each day and I never heard a complaint from her or her husband; not one! I have carefully saved her emails so that I still have words from her to reread when I need them. In this way, I think I have a new understanding of the Bible. It is the word of God, His son Jesus, and the great cloud of heavenly witnesses who took great pains to leave us with a testimony of all that He has done, is doing, and will do. I prayed dearly that God would bring her home with signs and wonders and He was so faithful in the answering all of our prayers. Please lift up her husband as he faces a new way of living without his soulmate by his side. But let us praise God that she is finally home and fully freed from a body that was literally a prison at the end of her life.