How we all ought to die (’cause Heaven’s better)
In another town far away, a girl named Kelly is dying. We met her husband years ago at a winter Bible School up in the frozen north. He was angry and tough. He was a fighter.
We lost track of him, Mr. Schrock and I, until not-too-many-years ago. A whole lotta water had passed beneath the bridge. For all of us, really, and we’d caught up with the Blackwells over dinner.
Tim would tell you himself that he’s made a bunch of bad choices, and that he’s suffered a great deal of pain. The kind of pain that just burrows its way down into your bones and sickens you from the inside on out.
It’s amazing, really, to see what happens when God gets hold of a man. There simply is no one He cannot redeem. There’s not a tough soul that He cannot soften, transform. And that’s Tim.
As we watched and listened from afar, Tim, the Angry and Tough. Tim, the Fighter, became Tim, the Follower of Jesus. Papa’s Kid. And, in the process, Kelly’s lover through and through.
Their journey has been rocky. Their path has been rough, and yet it has led to redemption. For now, you see, Kelly’s dying. The end’s near.
I hope I can honor their story well, for it’s glorious and beautiful and terrible all at once. For when the Big C (colon cancer) struck clear from the blue, Kelly’s heart was filled up with fear. It was her beloved Tim who led her through the sinner’s prayer “just to make sure all her I’s were dotted and her T’s were crossed,” and they prepared to say their goodbyes.
But God wasn’t done yet. For though He had Kelly safely in His heart and His hands, and He was safely in hers, there was more. I will let Tim tell it to you.
“Twenty years ago, my Kelly lost her 4 sons, relenting to their wishes after several long years of a bad custody battle. She became a shell of her former self. Didn’t see ’em again until recently. We now have two of ’em living on the farm with us, and the other two will be here within minutes, bringing a daughter-in-law and a grandson she’s never met. She’s never dared to believe it was possible, until this afternoon.
“She’s a wadded-up ball of happy excitement. My baby’s getting her family back, reunited, together, finally. She can go be with Jesus in a few days, satisfied. He has healed her household, and has the cure for her cancer in his hands to give to her soon as she changes out of her earth suit. I’m so happy for her, I’m the happiest man in the world right now.”
Kelly reveled in the sweet reunion with her family, a miracle she’d thought she’d never see. Now, she’s ready. The girl who’d been frightened is now excited! She’s going to Heaven. Again, I will let Tim explain it.
“Today Kelly and I had lots of long talks. She is ready to go, and excited about it. She said ‘I had no idea dying would be this much fun. I’d heard about people wanting to go home, but now I get it.’
“With a shower of joyful tears dropping from my eyes onto her pillow and blouse, I told her ‘Honey I’m not crying because I’m sad anymore. I’m crying because I’m so glad you see it like I do now. I couldn’t stand it when you were scared.
“‘Sweetheart, I’m so happy that you’re dying. You’re only a couple days away from never hurting again. You’re so lucky. You’ve worked hard all your life to do right, and been hurt more, and you’ve earned the right to get to go first.’
She giggled and said, “Yeah it’s gonna be fun to watch you and the boys have to struggle and fight so hard like you’re wrestling a bull by the horns. Now baby, don’t be worrying or sad. God will take me when he’s ready, and I can’t wait to go. And I’ll be looking for you when you get there.’
“‘I told her, ‘It won’t be more than one afternoon for you, and I’ll be bringing the boys with me.’ She just grinned, then started laughing again. Dam, I love that girl.”
I think that perhaps I have never seen two people model the truth and the beauty of dying as the Blackwells are doing right now. They get it! They really get it.
For those of us whom Papa’s adopted, dying is never the end. It’s the beginning! This joyous embracing, celebration through tears is the way we all should be dying. And that’s living.
To Tim and Kelly, thank you for your bravery, for your courage. For your real, raw faith that actually believes Papa’s promise, that Heaven’s better. You are showing the rest of us how it’s done, and we bless you.
With love and prayers from the Schrocks,
Grant and Rhonda