-I Corinthians 15:55
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
-I Thessalonians 4:13, ESV
I went to a viewing this evening, for an old friend of my family. That friend was Ruth Bish. I have no idea how old she is, to be honest. In my 22-year-old opinion, she’s pretty old.
Her husband, Bruce, is the one who died. This is the second husband she’s lost to death. But Bruce Bish is not lost; she knows exactly where he is. He is with Jesus in heaven.
The Bible says that we do not weep as those who have no hope. But we do weep. Only, not in the way of those with no hope. I’m confident that when she gets home, if she has any tears left, she will weep. But not for him. She knows that he is with Jesus. She weeps for herself. For having to live on without her man. She lived with him for 17 years.
I walked somberly into the funeral home. Nathaniel and Joanna met me at the top of the steps, and they showed me into the room.
At one end were people, smiling, happy, conversing.. quietly and respectfully… and at the other was Mrs. Bish. Smiling, appearing happy, conversing.. quietly, respectfully. So many people came, trickling in a few at a time.
I walked over to her. She was standing beside an expensive-looking casket. In the casket, I saw a body. I recognized the man’s face: Bruce Bish.
I had sat between him and Mrs. Bish when we went to Hope church, the church I remember first when I was growing up. We’d always sit there, between Mr. and Mrs. Bish, feeling their love for each other and loving being between it… and here I used to think i only went up there for the candy Mrs. Bish gave us.
His body was thinner than I remembered. He had gone the way of all the world.
Death. It’s seperation. That’s all, right? For Mr. and Mrs. Bish, it is. They’re both alive, you know. Bruce is alive with Jesus, and Ruth is alive here on earth. They are seperated. It is right that she should weep for him. But she will not weep as those who have no hope. I almost asked her if she wishes she were with him now. I know that if my best friend were, I would certainly wish to be with her. If I was, I would wish she could be with me. For her sake, not for mine. I would truly be home, home at last. Home with my Jesus.
I believe I now understand the meaning of the shortest verse in the Bible.
I wondered once why Jesus wept. Scholars have debated it, theologians discussed it… I believe I am closer to knowing now. I’ll try to explain.
I stood there next to the coffin, wrapped in my thoughts. So this was the place where death was swallowed up in life, eh? This is not Bruce Bish. This is his body. Bruce Bish is with his Jesus. But in the seperation, I still felt the tears brimming in my eyes. He was truly alive.
He had walked through the door of death. I remembered on my way home the story from Adventures in Oddyssey called simply “Karen.”
Karen, in the story, was a girl who died of cancer. I remember parts of that story quite well.
“I dreamed that Jesus was here. He was going around healing all these people, but some of them, he didn’t heal. He said ‘I have something better for you.'”
“He came over to me and said ‘I have something better for you too, Karen.’ Jesus talked to me!”
Her friend thought that it was terribly sad.. Karen, even in the face of death, knew that it was not. Not for her.
“Death isn’t so bad. It’s like.. going through a door into another room. A room that’s bright, and happy, and… full of God.”
Bruce Bish is in that room.
Death is a one-way door. But to one who believes in Jesus the Christ, death leads to life – real life. Bruce Bish will never die again. Never suffer pain again. He will be free from sin and its’ power. And best of all, he will be with Jesus.
In light of all this, the story Ruth told everyone wasn’t so terribly strange. All the way up to Bruce Bish’s death, he was happy, cheerful, and joyful. He was suffering, but even the surgeon noticed.
I stood there for a while after I gave her a hug, watching, listening. She maintained a smile, and thanked every single person who came. She seemed to have more interest in me and how I was doing than in her own circumstances. Mrs. Bish was quite herself.
She told another story, while I stood there, waiting to give this kind woman a hug goodbye:
“A few weeks before he went, he was lying in the hospital bed and he said, “Ruth, young people today don’t know what love is.” She smiled as she recounted this.
They loved each other so very much. As she spoke, she put her hand on his sleeve ever so tenderly.
Yes, my friends. Death is not to be feared or dreaded. The sting of death, for believers, is gone. We weep not for them, but for ourselves who are left behind. We will be the lonely ones. They will be with Jesus.
Death is seperation. But it’s only for a while. After the seperation comes life. With guarantees. No death, no pain, no night.
the timeless theme, earth and heaven will pass away
it’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
gone is the curse, from which i stumbled and fell
evil is banished to eternal hell
no more night
no more pain
no more tears
never crying again
and praises to
the Great I Am
we will live
in the light
of the risen lamb
“This is the end… for me, the beginning of life.”