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Separation

My son is traveling alone in Europe for six weeks and a day never passes that I wonder where he is and how he’s doing. I’m always happy to get a short e-mail from him whenever he can get to an Internet café. I am longing to see him again and to have him back safe at home.

Concurrent with his travels, I attended a memorial today for a Christian colleague who left on a much longer trip. Dean fell ill rather suddenly with cancer and was gone in a matter of weeks. Slow deaths allow for slow goodbyes, but quick ones leave us feeling especially unprepared and somehow undone.

I drove to the memorial venue in a pelting rain—a refreshment I had been praying for. But it also added to the heaviness of death. Entering the meeting room, I peered into the darkness, seeing the gloomy skies had invaded the room. The storm had severed the electricity and so the only illumination, provided by a generator, came from two sets of emergency lights, high on either side wall, and two beautiful torchiere lamps, standing tall before the podium.

Clutching the bulletin, I sat down in the quiet, while gentle hymns played on the piano, and I contemplated this man who had turned sixty-three only a few days before. His handsome face, framed by a soft-edged oval, looked heavenly, and I wondered at how he could now be home forever. Some mysteries are revealed to us on this earth, while others are the sole property of an omniscient God. How can it be that this man is now living in another world, apart from where I am? But he is.

From time to time, I can send text messages back and forth to my son. But for Dean, no one will ever communicate with him—until they pass to that far-away land. And yet, we know where he is, where he will be forever, even though he cannot tell us in his own words. At the end of the service, one of the pastors said, “We know where Dean is.” And again, with emphasis, “We know where Dean is. He is in heaven with Jesus. He doesn’t need electricity there, or lamps, because in heaven ‘they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light’” (Revelation 22:5).

And then he quoted Romans 8:38 where the Apostle Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Dean is on the other side, separated from us for awhile, but in no way separated from the same Love that ruled and blessed his life.

Shortly before His own death, Jesus told a crowd, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” And the story continues: “When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them” (John 12:35–36).

Yes, Jesus is hidden from us now as is Dean, but one day all the separations that tear at our hearts will be over, just as for Jesus who, after His death and resurrection, reunited with His Father in heaven. The separations of the living from the living will no longer worry us and the grieving tears of the living for the dead will cease, for God Himself will tenderly wipe away every tear from our eyes. One day, we will all get home safely—together and forever.