near death thoughts

So, Grandma Violet.  She’s still hanging on.  She gets worse, everyone thinks, “This is it,” and … then she gets a little better.  Apparently the hospice staff called my uncle and aunt at 4am one night this week, because they thought it was It, but, again, she got a little better.  My parents went up to see her yesterday, along with lots of other family and friends who came to visit, and everyone was telling stories laughing — and Grandma was laughing along!  A week ago my aunt went to visit, and she and Grandma played “13,” a card game.  Even though Grandma fell asleep a few times during the card game, she still managed to beat my aunt, a fact which everyone found pretty funny.  I’m sure Grandma found it funny, too. 🙂

All silliness aside, Grandma IS getting closer to heaven every day.  She doesn’t get out of bed at all now, and she apparently has more and more episodes of being very close to death.  She looks better some days and looks worse on others, but she never really looks good.  But when my dad asked her yesterday how she was doing, she said, “I’m in heaven.”  She has total confidence in God’s salvation, won for her at the cross, and she has total trust that God will take her out of this world when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her, and how she is about to go through death’s door.  She will (most likely) be the first person that I am close to who has died.  Obviously, I’ve known other people that have died, but none of them have been close to me.  This experience has gotten me thinking about the experience of dying, and it’s given me reason to ponder the realities of heaven and hell, as well as how we can know that we’re headed to One and not The Other.

Since my husband is my best friend, and since my husband happens to also be a pastor, I brought up some of these thoughts with him.  After reminding me of some apologetics-style facts and reassurances about the sureness and completeness of my salvation in Christ, he also recommended that I listen to a Gary Habermas lecture about Near Death Experiences.  You can find the lectures here: I listened to part of the January 2003 lecture, but there is a newer lecture from February 2008 that I haven’t listened to yet.

Hearing about these kinds of experiences is very comforting to me, just like my hubby suspected they would be.  It also makes me look forward even more to finally arriving in heaven.  And I am confident that, thanks to the perfect life lived on my behalf by Jesus and the punishment he endured for me on the cross, heaven WILL be my home someday.

I mentioned these thoughts to my father on the phone tonight, and he told me about a book that his sister gave him written by a pastor about his near-death experience, called 90 Minutes in Heaven.  I plan to see if my local library carries the book.

All of these thoughts about death and dying and heaven are good for me.  They are serving to make me less fearful of the experience of dying.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not thrilled about the prospect of dying, and I certainly don’t plan on dying anytime soon.  But my prayer is that when my time comes, I won’t be afraid to go through death’s door.  I pray to have complete trust that the angels are holding me securely, and that Jesus is waiting with open arms to welcome me to heaven.

Just like my Grandma trusts.

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With these thoughts in my mind, tonight I sang verses from the hymn “Abide With Me” to Curious J for her nightly lullaby.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

Swife to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me!

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

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