This week, my husband Mark has been bedridden with a strange virus, a very rare thing for a workaholic man who has never deemed it necessary to call in sick, not even for bronchitis in all his 40 years or employment. As he struggles to regain his strength, I grapple with a full plate as most wives deal with, so much I can barely think.
Despite the stress of swirling woes & ministry calls. Mark’s best friend, Peter called to tell us his father was in the critical care ward in Philadelphia and could we stop to visit. His condition was deteriorating and Peter knew me to be a prayer warrior who did hospital visitation.
Saturday came and Mark & I drove to Philadelphia where Peter greeted us in the lobby of Philadelphia Hospital. I hated hospitals, but God always did miracles when I was called to visit. As we rode the elevator to the upper floors, Peter shared his fear about losing his father. His mother, on the other hand had such faith the actually believe God would bring him home.
Entering the room, Peter’s mom and sister greeted us with hugs. Peter’s father lay motionless and tethered to an oxygen tank. I asked everyone to join hand for God’s presence . The heaviness of the room lightened as I went about to focus my attention on peter’s dad.
“Papa, I’m here. There is nothing to be afraid of. Angels are surrounding you and everything is alright.” I looked into his eyes and stroked his head gently. His shoulders twitched and his eyes darted upwards. Something caught his attention. I turned to take my guitar out of its case and position my lyrics book start playing “In the Garden.” A peace settled over the room as Peter’s mom and sister listened to me with their eyes closed. Peter and Mark left the, but I took advantage of the quiet time to comfort and remind “Poppa” that he was encircled by God’s ministering angels.
About a half an hour later, Peter and Mark reentered the room, Poppa was sleeping peacefully and his mom took my hand to thank me for coming. I felt as if I was already a part of the family.
Fast forward, two days later, Peter left a message on our machine that his dad had passed during the night. His sister raved about my beautiful voice and asked if I would sing for the funeral and wake. Funeral services were always in the morning, the worst time to sing and I was in the midst of bronchitis, making it more difficult to be alert. But I wanted to be obedient to minister to Peter’s family.
I set my alarm, waking up early enough for us to arrive at St Catherine’s church, well before everyone came to pay their last respects. I led Mark in a prayer that the spirit of “religion” (legalism): would not interfere with God’s beautiful impartation to the grieving friends and family.
We told the attending priest we were here at the family’s request to share a song for “Poppa”.and he told us to wait for the cantor to direct us. When the cantor arrived and Mark introduced me as the girl who was to sing an original Psalm, he balked.
“Under any other circumstances I would say no, but I guess today, it’s okay.”
I was to sing my song after the Our Father:
Peter’s mother and sister led the procession. Momma sobbed loudly and I could only imagine what she had thought about Jesus not restoring her beloved husband as he did Lazarus. I felt sad, thinking about her staunch words of confession for her husband’s healing when we talked in the hospital. No words are ever adequate to console one grieving a loved one.
I know deep in my heart, Poppa was in the place where I wanted to be!
Stepping onto the stage after father gave communion, I blessed my Heavenly Father for the privilege and opportunity to share Christ with this large group. I had very little amplification and my lungs were still congested, but surprisingly , my voice rang out onto the cavernous church sanctuary, flanked by stained glass windows. I envisioned the inspiration God gave me to compose Psalm 91 immediately after weeping in agony from my daily jaw pain. The message was a balm and appropriate for the group I was no signing to.
Confident words of comfort and hope flowed from me as I reminded them about Jesus calling Himself the resurrection and the life and if they call upon the name of the LORD, they would be saved in time of trouble. Every eye caught mine as my gaze swept the sanctuary. I reminded them that we need not fear in the face of chaos and troubles.
We followed the funeral processing down the road to the mausoleum where Father would give the last prayer and Poppa would be buried. Mama, sobbed uncontrollably. I walked up and stood behind her, kissing her on her check, then gently stroking her neck to calm her. Immediately she stopped and became quiet as I spoke peace and The priest spoke his last respects.
Afterwards, family and friends were invited to join Peter and his family at Branches banquet hall for brunch. A woman rushed up to me.
“My friend sees into the spiritual realm and she said that as you were singing, many cherubim gathered around you as you sang your beautiful song. She said they were chattering gleefully and laughing!”
“Wow!” I answered. “They were celebrating Papa’s homecoming:” By now, I was drained to say the least, but thankful for a beautiful meal and making a new friendship with one of Peter’s closest lady friends. Once again, My Abba father brought beauty out of ashes and especially peter who was one more step closer to realizing God’s love for him.
Finally at home, resting in bed, I recounted the emotions, conversations and images of the days events, praising God for His exquisite handiwork. Peter’s mom would mourn many weeks for her beloved husband and companion of 50 years. I was humbled to give an invitation to all to accept Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives!
“I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in ME will live, even though he dies,” John 11:25. Jesus reminded Mary and Martha who He was. And those who feared and were troubled, “if you make the MOST HIGH your dwelling, even the Lord your refuge, then NO harm shall befall you, ( Psalm 91 9-19) We rest in the shelter of his wings…in the shadow of the Almighty.
Nowhere is there more the promise of healing than in the midst of emotional sorrow, death or disease. In the midst of my own physical fragility and helplessness, my Abba Father continually brings streams into the parched wildernesses of. In almost all cases of my hospice ministry, the patient died. With carnal eyes we see the physical effects of disease or disability and we shirk back in horror and or fear of the unknown. With secular human logic and wisdom we deduce who death is…the enemy. But is death the final and ugly enemy?
I open my mind, eyes and spirit to His grace and wisdom. God has truly imparted to me through all these hospice and funeral experiences that death is the exquisite journey to the glorious next chapter of our lives! Our barren wilderness can be anything from a long, distressing illness, (like my battle with Dystonia) to struggling with poverty to enduring a disaster like victims of Katrina hurricane or the earthquake in Haiti. Everyone has or will endure some sort of wilderness, but it is merely a test for us to endure and thrive to help others successfully transition to their next level or chapter!
We enter the depths of the supernatural realm, (the Holy of Holies) …only by Faith. Only through faith can we ever ascend that supernatural peace that Paul said passes all understanding!