Heaven, the glorious hope of our salvation. Our eternal home. Heaven, where our holiness is perfected, where no longer will we see through a glass darkly, but we will behold face-to-face and humbly bow before Jesus, our Saviour, our Friend, our Lord and our God! Heaven, land of true happiness, where tears and pain and sorrow are wiped away, and joy reigns forever in our hearts, as we live in the holy presence of God Almighty who created us to be in relationship with Him, and who has redeemed us through the blood of His Son, the Lamb of God, that we might fulfill His loving creative purpose.
Dad, it has been a long haul. Here on this old sin-stained planet, we have watched over you, as summer days with blue skies and lemon-yellow sunlight filtering through the rich green of trees and grass and shimmering on the bright multi-colored riot of summer flowers, have slowly faded away to be replaced by hazy grayness of wet and windy autumn days with the first leaves of fall slowly starting to brown and shrivel and float down to the earth and crumble away. It has seemed like your earthly body has somehow been in tune with the changing seasons as day by day you have fought life’s final battle, and bit by bit earthly life has begun to lose out to approaching death. The illness that betrayed you by surprise in summer’s early days slowly drew the colour and fullness of life from you, and replaced it with increasing pain. Gradually, bit by bit, the richly living, caring, loving, wonderful husband, father, grand-father, great-grandfather, and friend we have all known, lost the colour of his life and like the leaves of autumn slowly shriveled up, and blown by the winds of this final adversity, was drawn back to the ground from which we are created.
And yes, we miss you, Dad. Yes, there is a lonely emptiness in our hearts, as your splash of bright colour in the tapestry of our lives, into which you have been indelibly woven, fades slowly away into grayness, into the pale, undefined water-colour shades of memory. The next days and months will not be easy, and we will often feel at lost ends, and we will shed tears, and no doubt sometimes we will feel angry and cheated by our loss. And yet gradually we will move on, and hope to find a comfortableness in the retelling of happy memories, as you remain with us in our hearts and in the reality of our lives in which you have had such a lasting influence.
But we will also experience something far better, far greater, far more awesome. For this is not a final ending, but truly this is the beginning of new life, real life, life for which your days on earth have been only a shadow, even in their brightest shining moments! The fleeting days of earthly life are, as C S Lewis has said, only the cover and title page, and the true story, the great eternal adventure, has just begun! While we linger on this side of the stable door, the great Light which came down into the darkness of a stable and took upon Himself our weak, clay-bound form, including taking upon Himself all of our sin and sorrow, offering us in its place the glory of His eternal life and light, has opened wide the gates of His eternal city, our heavenly home, and you have stepped in, Dad.
Gone is the pain, the sickness, the weakened, shriveled body. The dark journey is over. The cold, forbidding river through the dark valley has been crossed and the shining golden streets of the celestial city, leading right to the throne room of God Himself, lie open before you. As the old song expresses it, your feet have passed through the valley, you’ve climbed mountains, crossed rivers, desert places you’ve known. Now you’ve reached the home shore; the redeemed are rejoicing and heaven’s choirs are singing as you enter in to glory! Your parents, and Mom’s parents, and the many loved ones who have gone on before, whose robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, are there greeting you with joy. And Jesus, the great joy and hope of your life here on earth, is standing there with his arms outstretched, taking you by the hand, and bringing you into the great throne room of the heavenly Jerusalem, to bring you face to face with His Father and yours. “Here is Bill, Your child” I can hear him saying. And the Father responds, “Welcome, child of Mine, washed and made ready by the blood of the Lamb!”
So finally we sat by your bedside, in those final hours, as you drew those last few painful rattling breaths. And then, you were gone. And yet, somehow the real you was still there, imprinted on your face. The pain had vanished, replaced by that expression of peace and utter rest that can only be found on the faces of those who have crossed the river and looked into the face of Jesus, and heard him gently say, “Welcome home, My child.”
Back here, we wait. We’ll keep taking care of our dear little mom, your precious wife of over fifty years, for the few short days until you meet her with joy on the heavenly shore. We’ll keep praying for all your family, for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for all those for whom you have shed tears of longing on your knees before God, that He will even yet answer those faithful prayers and bring them all into His heavenly family.
“Further up and further in!” Dad. And, joy of all joys, we’ll see you soon!
Written in memory of my dad, Bill Wright, who peacefully and joyfully passed into the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, on Friday evening, September 22, 2006.
Date: September 24, 2006