The Year 2011 has been difficult for our family . . . as many of you know, we have watched several loved ones pass from this life and into eternity. Yesterday, my family was there to usher Uncle Sam to the gates of Heaven with singing. Singing to our loved ones as they journey to Heaven is a "sweet tradition" in our family . . .
On August 27, 1995 I experienced first hand this beautiful tradition as my precious maternal Grandma was minutes away from meeting Jesus. I remember it like it was yesterday . . . several of my Aunts and Uncles, my brother and sister and a few cousins surrounded Grandma's hospital bed and began singing Grandma's favorite hymns. Grandma had asked Jesus into her heart several years prior and had raised up her twelve children in church. I remember singing Amazing Grace, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Softly and Tenderly . . . I remember my cousin praying for Grandma and one of my Aunts saying, "See you in the morning Mom". I remember the sweet and peaceful look on her face as she left this life and met Jesus. It was beautiful to us . . . and I was later told the hospital staff had never witnessed anything like that when someone was dying.
On August 18, 2011, I was beside Aunt Darlene's hospital bed. Aunt Darlene had endured a heart attack and heart surgery . . . she never recovered. Once again family gathered around her bed . . . we filled the hospital room and began singing as her heart rate declined. Aunt Darlene's Pastor was there and helped in the leading of song . . . once again the beautiful song Amazing Grace was sung. Jesus Loves Me, Just as I am and many other hymns were sung. Aunt Darlene was also told, "See you in the morning!" I am certain there were people that walked by or in the room that didn't quite understand how many of our family could sing throughout a loved one's last moments.
Yesterday, December 9, 2011 a few family members were at Uncle Sam's hospital bedside. Uncle Sam had been in the hospital a week, had been improving and was even up walking on Wednesday. Pre-dawn on Friday morning, the hospital called a nephew and informed him that Uncle Sam was being moved to the ICU as his condition had worsened. He was told there was no hurry and he could get in to see him about 7:00 a.m. after he was settled in the ICU. I received a call about 6:00 a.m. I got up and began to get myself together and the boys too. After the boys headed off to school, I drove to the hospital . . . on my way, my Dad called and told me to hurry. As I was walking through the hospital, Uncle Sam took his last breath. My Mom and Aunt Sandra sang Uncle Sam to the gates of Heaven. My Dad met me in the Hall and showed me were Uncle Sam was. I entered the room and went to his bedside . . . I told him I loved him as well as each of my children. I held his hand as his heart stopped beating. He was at peace.
What I have not told you is that Uncle Sam accepted Jesus as his Savior on Friday, December 2 as he lay in his hospital bed in horrific pain. When Katelyn and I were visiting him on Saturday, he mentioned to Katelyn he was ready to see Aunt Darlene . . . his wife of many years. On Sunday, Randy and I went to visit him and after we gave him a card made by the kids and showed him an ipad video of Get Wells and I Love Yous from the kids he had something to tell me. He said, "I talked to Him on Friday night". I asked him, "Who Uncle Sam? Jesus?" and he began sobbing. "Yes" he answered. I then asked, "Uncle Sam . . . did you ask Jesus into your heart?" As Uncle Sam continued to sob he managed to get out "Yes". I asked him one more thing . . . "Uncle Sam did you ask Jesus to forgive your sins?" and Uncle Sam shook his head "Yes"! After a minute Uncle Sam had calmed and said with a crack in his voice . . . "I am ready to be with Darlene." Can I tell you . . . those words were so very sweet! In the midst of all of his pain, he turned to Jesus! This past week Uncle Sam told each person that came in He was ready to go see Aunt Darlene . . . although some of his visitors simply thought he was lonely and really missing his precious wife, a few of us knew EXACTLY what he was saying. PRAISE BE TO GOD!
Death is a very strange experience . . . for the Believer, we have the Promise of Eternal Life! My daughter Katelyn asked me . . . "Mom, is it wrong to be happy that Uncle Sam and Aunt Darlene are not in pain anymore? Is it wrong to be relieved? Is it wrong to be thankful they are in Heaven?" I answered her simply with words I have heard from my Mom many times . . . "We have the Hope and Promise of Jesus Christ and Eternal Life! We have the comfort that only Jesus can give! Death is not the same for those that have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and those who do not know him and accepted his gift personally." Although we cry and have much sorrow when one that we love dies, we are comforted . . . we know that Uncle Sam and Aunt Darlene are no longer in pain, cancer free and experiencing Heaven first hand! They are there with so many other loved ones just waiting to greet us when God calls us home! Oh what a reunion that will be!