A longtime church member and friend passed away last year. In his last days on this earth, as he was released from the hospital to go back to his room at the assisted living facility, he kept telling his nurses he was “going home”. They would kindly correct him that, no, he was going to Brookdale. “No,” he would say, “I’m going home.” Harold died that evening. And he went home.
When I heard that story, it reminded me of the 19th century clergyman John Todd. As a child, both his parents died and he was reared by a kind aunt. Many years later, his aunt was on her deathbed. She wrote him an angst-filled letter. She wanted to know, “Is death the end of everything? Is there hope for something beyond?” This was Rev. Todd’s reply,
“It is now thirty-five years since I, as a boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word you would give me a home and be a kind mother to me. I have never forgotten the day I made the long journey to your house. I can still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me.
“I remember my tears and anxiety as, perched high on the horse and clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home. Night fell before we finished the journey and I became lonely and afraid. ‘Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?’ I asked Caesar.
‘Oh no!’ he said reassuringly, ‘She’ll stay up for you. When we get out o’ these here woods, you’ll see her candle shinin’ in the window.’
“Presently we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle. I remember you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms close about me—a tired and bewildered little boy. You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room, heard me say my prayers and then sat beside me till I fell asleep.
“Someday soon God will send for you, to take you to a new home. Don’t fear the summons, the strange journey or the messenger of death. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you were kind enough to do for me so many years ago. At the end of the road you will find love and a welcome awaiting and you will be safe in God’s care.”
Jesus told his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
If you know Jesus, death is nothing to be feared. It’s just the end of the first part of our journey and, like my friend Harold, it’s the moment we arrive home.
If you don’t know Jesus, or aren’t sure if a room in the Father’s house is awaiting you, join us in church Sunday. We’d love to pray with you.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit New Life’s website www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.