The Final Trip

Well, today is the day for the funeral. This isn’t the only funeral I will be attending this week, unfortunately. My uncle passed away two days ago. Did you notice I used the word “unfortunately”? This is my lesson for this week (and hopefully for the rest of my life).

I went to visit my uncle this weekend as I knew he was in poor medical health and was bedridden and pretty much nonresponsive. My aunt had been caring for him while my cousins were tag-teaming it to help out. I have to assume the stress became overwhelming on her body because she fell ill rapidly one day last week due to congestive heart failure and the resulting pneumonia from the fluid build up in her lungs. In talking to my cousins, there is a laundry list of health issues with her, but I keep surmising it all stems from the congestive heart failure, minus the diabetes.

Anyway, as I was visiting my uncle, two of my cousins were there and their wives. We knew there wasn’t much to do but try to make sure he was comfortable and to have a good conversation that might perk him up a little. Talking with them is easy because they are about as humble as you can find, while putting in their entertaining stories in the mix. It got my uncle’s attention, we think. He started moving his one good limb and breathing heavy. Was he uncomfortable? My cousins had just moved his body so he would be lying straight on his back with a little prop. Was he hoping to join in the conversation even though he couldn’t talk? Was he in pain? There was no way of knowing and the feeling of helplessness really settled in me at that point.

Why was I feeling helpless? Was it the dread of him dying or was I just feeling like I needed to make him feel better and couldn’t? I didn’t want to think of him dying and, talking with my cousins, it seemed to be a burden on them as well. The conversation always turned somber when talking about his death. Now, I understand when a person is alive and yet suffering, compassion for that person is the right response. But, when a person is preparing to die, why do we always have to have such a somber attitude? I mean really, when you think about it, what is so somber about the occasion that a believing Christian is about to meet face to face with his Savior?

I haven’t mentioned anything to my cousins, but I’m sure they have had the thought themselves. How close is my aunt to death at this point? If she was awake yesterday when they had planned on telling her about my uncle, how did she take it? When I visited her in the hospital, she was on so many medications that she was completely incoherent, barely even opening her eyes periodically. Would she remember the news, and if she did, would it devastate her to the point of simply letting this life go? It’s a consideration, but not one I will dwell on because either way, I still have the feeling this is a time for celebration.

How do you treat your family or friends when they announce they are about to take a trip? It might be a business trip or a vacation, but inevitably, we always wish them a good and safe trip. Usually with a smile on our face because we don’t see taking a trip as a bad thing. Shouldn’t it be the same way with a person about to make the trip to heaven? We should be anticipating their departure, knowing in our hearts how wonderful this trip will be for them.

Paul looked forward to his trip to meet Christ. He called it running the race to win the prize. He did everything he could to honor Christ with his life, knowing that he would be face to face with Him one day. Being with Christ for eternity is, of course, the prize. How can we be sad if we know our loved ones are going to win the prize? That’s ridiculous. It’s also selfish and ignorant. I’m not sad for my uncle. I’m ecstatic! He’s gone on the ultimate trip and will be there forever. I am a little sad for my aunt, but that’s because she must adjust her way of life now, but as I briefly mentioned earlier, she may not have to make a lot of adjustments as she might be taking a trip in the near future herself. I pray that she feels peace no matter how long she remains here with us and she’s confident in God’s unconditional love for her.

This is why we need to keep fighting the good fight. We need to show as many people as possible who Christ truly is and how much God truly loves each of us. If more people understand the truth and believe in their hearts, the more people will take that final trip to the most wonderful place imaginable.

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