October comes and goes, the weather is brisk, and while I know it won’t get terribly cold in Texas, it does signal the beginning of the end of yet another year. And the years are flying by faster and faster.
Both my dad and I have October birthdays (his was yesterday), and while birthdays don’t bother me, not having dad with me to celebrate together does.
I suspect October is even tougher on mom – her anniversary is October 2 – so she has an entire month of reminders that dad is gone.
Conversations hover over death and dying in October. There will be a killing frost for most of the Midwest soon, if there hasn’t been already, and we’ll pull up dead annuals and throw them into the compost pile to decompose. The perennials will all die back to the ground. The trees will drop their dead leaves. Things die.
But as I think of dad, I cannot bring myself to say he is dead. I think that is because I was with him, holding his hand when he left. Yes, I saw his body die, but inexplicably, I also felt him leave. He just left. He is still alive!
Before dad left, I was travelling back and forth from Illinois to Ohio to try to help him and mom as much as I could, and on the road, I would pray and ask God to please let me be there when dad passed.
On the last Sunday I was in Ohio, I felt torn about leaving, yet, when I prayed, it was as if God whispered into my spirit, “Go home; today is not the day.” I spoke with dad the next day and he was declining, but I knew Monday was not the day and I told dad so. “How do you know?” he asked. “Because I believe God will make sure I’m with you, and I don’t feel pressed to go to Ohio today.”
On Thursday, I woke up, and I somehow knew it was the day. Then my sister called and told me it was time. Brian and I drove to Ohio. When we arrived at the hospital, I asked dad, “Are you going to see Jesus today?” “Yes,” he confidently declared. Then he told me he loved me.
It was my nephew’s turn to stay the night with dad, but I asked him if I could. Or I told him I would – I’m not sure, honestly. Maybe I owe him an apology. But shortly after everyone left for the evening, it was Brian, dad, and me. Dad was asleep. Brian had a basketball game on. I was exhausted. I laid down for a moment.
An hour later, I heard something and I woke up. Dad was still asleep, but something had changed. I hurried over to him and held his hand. I asked if he was OK, but he didn’t answer. I asked him if it was time. I squeezed his hand. I texted my siblings and their children and told them to bring mom and come back right away.
I would like to say that I was calm, that I was singing hymns and praying, that I was gentle and relaxed, and that I was worshipping. But I wasn’t. I asked dad if it was possible to let me know when he saw Jesus – and then I started telling him, commanding him, ordering him to wait! Wait till mom got there.
Why did I want him to wait? Did I think that mom could make him stay? Did I think that he might stay with us a bit longer if she was there? I don’t know. I’d never been in the room when a soul stepped into glory, to go to Jesus. I didn’t know what to do.
So, in the midst of my non-stop commands to wait, he moved his lips like he was saying my name, and then he left. He just left. He stepped out of his body and he left. Was he telling me he was seeing Jesus? I like to think so. Nevertheless, as I held my dad’s hand and stared at his face, and told him to wait, he left.
To be present when a believer, who trusts in the cleansing blood of Jesus, and who steps out of the body and into the arms of Jesus, is a sacred moment. I looked at Brian and simply said, “He left, didn’t he?” “Yes.”
But he did not die. He did not die because Jesus’s death on the cross defeated death. Death has no victory in a believer’s life. Death is nothing to fear. Death is the friend who ushers us into the presence of Jesus. When a Christian closes his eyes and exhales his last breath on earth, in the next moment, he opens them to see the face of Jesus and inhales victory!
October 30 is dad’s birthday on earth. June 13 is his birthday into glory. I’m not sure what day he was born spiritually, but I know that he was because he gave me testimony to that truth, and others have told me that dad was the one who led them to faith. Dad was born twice, once in the flesh, and once in the spirit. Therefore, he lives forever!
Dad lives in glory. That truth helps me endure the heartache of October – well, that, and pumpkin spice. Seriously, the Word of God promises us that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). And to depart is to be with Christ, which is better by far (Philippians 1:23).
October may come, and it may be hard to get through, but without October, there would be no hope for spring; spring — when all things are reborn, when life pushes up through the ground and blossoms. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, all who believe in him will live, even though they die (John 11:25).
We don’t know the date when Jesus will return, or call us to himself at the end of our earthly lives, but our responsibility until then is to be ready, to live ready and expectantly, and to help others get ready. Are you ready? Are your children? Are your grandchildren? What are you doing to help them prepare and live in expectation of that glorious day?
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