Last summer, a good friend died after a very long illness. We had attended the same elementary school. I had forgotten about her until I met up with her some thirty years ago. We became good friends, and we visited back and forth a lot.
At some point some years ago, she experienced the onset of Parkinson's disease, and as her health deteriorated, she asked me if I would conduct her funeral service. We discussed the kind of service that she wanted and which Bible texts to use. One of them was her baptismal text:
Matthew 6:19a,20a – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. (NKJV)
Over the years during our friendship, we learned that her first husband had been very ill for a considerable number of years. They had four relatively small children when he first became sick. It was in the days of few social services, and she had to work hard to keep things going. After a number of years, he died, and she was a widow for many years. During those years, she often rebelled, she told us, but then, she always remembered:
Psalm 46:10a – Be still, and know that I am God. (NKJV)
It gave her time to reflect and to accept the situation that she found herself in, and it gave her peace.
After quite a few years, she remarried. She and her new husband had a good life together. But their life was not without its disappointments either. One day, she received word that her oldest son had suddenly died at the age of 40. Later, she got word that two of her brothers had also died suddenly.
As time went by, her illness became more debilitating, and she was slowly becoming less able to do much of anything. She spent the last year and a half of her life in a long-term care centre about 45 kilometres away. Her husband was at home doing well. He came to see her every day. But one week, because he had a bad cold, he had not been to see her for a few days. A neighbour, wondering why he had not seen him, went to check and found him dead on the living room floor. He had died of a heart attack.
I went to see her, and she reminisced about the tragedies in her life. Then, she quoted the verse from Psalm 46 again. She lived for another six months, and I visited her often, talking about our childhood and our faith. One of the last times when I visited her, she mentioned that she wished that the Lord would take her home, and I read to her the hymn, "Precious Lord, take my hand".
- When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand, lest I fall.
Take my hand precious Lord,
Lead me home.
– Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993)
Shortly after that, the Lord did call her home. I don't know if she laid up treasures on earth or not, but her life certainly showed that she laid up treasures in heaven.
In the middle of life's tragedies, being still and knowing that our loving God is in still in charge can really bring us peace. Are you laying up such treasures in heaven?
Prayer: Our Father, there are times when we are confronted with the illness or death of a loved one. When we are, we pray that we will always be assured of the fact that You are with us, and that You will lead us home. We thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.