At my age and well into my seventh decade, I should expect it. But I’m still shaken to the depths at another good friend leaving this world for a one better.
She called me her ‘forever friend’ because of our early attachement to each other. In the basement of our childhood church, we often twirled to see whose skirt was the prettiest and the fullest. It was in this basement where we attended weekly children’s church, and the foundation of our mutual faith was built strong. We sang in a little-girls trio and made pretty good harmony. We were baptized at the same service. Years later we talked about the early years, how we first learned to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus our Savior.
My heart hurt yesterday after hearing the news of her death. Tears came freely and I gave in to the weeping, remembering Psalm 56:8 tells me my tears are acknowledged by my heavenly Father.
Lying in bed and ready for sleep, memories of our long-time friendship played in my mind. She and I were born the same year, and we both took piano lessons. As young pals, she often came home with me on a Sunday night to spend the days of summer until we returned to church again on Wednesday. She ate tuna fish sandwiches with me because that was my lunch of choice most days. She played with my dogs and rode my horse and entered into my life in a way that etched a permant mark.
As adults and mothers of growing children, we again shared church and life experiences. She and I played music for worship, her on the piano and me on the organ, and we could almost read each other’s expressions across the podium as we flowed with the leading of the Spirit.
Judy was an expert planner of events, whether a choir reunion, a women’s weekend meeting, Christmas tea parties, or our son’s wedding. I helped serve at a couple of the tea parties she hosted at her house where every detail was meticuolous and the house was rearranged to accommodate a crowd. The women who were seated at tables and served delicacies were astonshed at the preparations and felt loved that this was just for them.
She loved children in the way of Jesus who said “Let the little children come.” She talked and listened like they were real people. She catered to their special tastes and had the best treats tucked away in her tall kitchen cabinet. She made my grandchildren feel as special as I tried to. She was a pied piper of sorts, calling them to come and get some of her unique love.
Judy was a gift-giver at heart, the presentations always lavish with an extra amount of effort. Each birthday and Christmas, there was a lovely bag filled with surprises particular to me. Always there was something blue, like a teapot or tiny box, wrapped in tissue paper because she remembered my favorite color.
My friend offered me a safe harbor in 2003 when I was desperately in need. I recall with tears her gentle ways of welcome, the small gifts of kindness, the listening ear and non-judgment of the hard place where I found myself.
When a group of adults took a passel of teenagers to Michigan to do drama ministry, she saved us from a torturous trip home by offering air freshner and a clean t-shirt when one of the kids threw up in the car, spattering Sweet William in the process. It was anything but funny at the time, but we laughed about it years after the fact.
Soon after the death of my mother in February 1983, Judy asked me to teach a lesson on faith to her class. It was an incredulous request, I thought, since I was wrestling with my own faith in the throes of grief, and I was in a bit of a crisis. For some reason I said yes to her. In my Bible I wrote a notation at Hebrews 10:19-23, “my first sermon,” the date 3-18-83.
She asked me again and again through the years to speak, to teach, calling forth a gift in me I did not know I had. While music was my comfort zone of ministry, the Lord used her to lead me into an area of teaching. She was an instrument of His grace, iron sharpening iron.
This morning I think of the hole left in lives of her husband, her children and grandchildren, family and friends. Her influence was deep and wide, loving people in simple and profound ways. At this moment I can only think of her bright smile and laughter, not the way sickness ravaged her body in the closing years of her life.
People say, “She’s in a better place.” And I know it is true. The glories of her Heavenly Home do not compare to the beauties surrounding us on this earth. The Jesus she proclaimed to others as the only way of salvation is the Jesus she now sees face to face, beholding the glory of all His goodness.
I wonder how the heavenly reunion happens when a saint of God enters the eternal portals. Does word spread throughout the Celestial City that she’s coming? Do they get excited with the anticpated reunion, like I look forward to a visit from my dear ones? Do family and friends, the great crowd of witnesses, gather to greet and welcome? I wonder about such things.
If they do, then I picture faces of saints gone before. Judy’s parents and grandparents will be there. Friends she loved here will be among the crowd. My mother and dad might be on the sidelines waiting their turn to joyously embrace another soilder who has come home.
Home. Judy loved her home, making it beautiful and comfortable for all to enter and enjoy, touches of herself showing up in every room. Now she is Home in a way I can only dream about and look forward to when it is my turn to go.
My heart aches in the remembering today, but there is a sweetness present too. The love and encouragement she gave me, the welcome and smile that were as big as her hug and her heart, the way we walked the path of salvation together through many years, how she loved Jesus and wanted others to know Him.
My time of departure from earth’s hold will come one day. The years are mounting up faster than I can grasp, making me conscious of the frailty of life. I hope my story is one that points to Jesus, like Judy’s did.
I know there is something more than this life. Though it offers beauty and joy, it is mixed with the pain of sorrow and loss. There is another place, a place where the living God dwells in glorious unaproachable light, and He invites me to make my citizenship there, to be where He is. He has paid the price for me through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and He bids me come. Come home.
My forever friend will be among the heavenly throng welcoming me when it’s my turn to leave here. And she’ll be smiling with open arms as we share stories of amazing grace.
LOVE, LOVE reading all your wonderful precious memories of Judy, memories that I can also attest to. Thank you, Peggy, for taking the time to share your special eternal friendship you have with Judy! I am so grateful that she is no longer held prisoner in her earthly body that caused so much illness and pain for years. I am thankful and so grateful to God that she is now released and her spirit is at perfect peace with complete contentment in the presence of our Lord! Her ‘real’ life is just beginning – oh what a glorious eternal future the Lord has prepared for her, and for you, and the rest of us who are eternal brothers/sisters in God’s family!! I am counting the days, hours and moments until the rapture when her grave will burst open (along with our parents!!) and her spirit will join her body instantaneously transformed into her glorified eternal body!!! And all our eternal brothers and sisters who are still here will be caught up to meet our Lord in the air, to be with Christ forever!! And after that, the Bema Seat, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and then at the end of the 7-yr tribulation period, we will return with our Lord to reign with Him for 1,000 years … all as Scripture states … and then after that we will live forever and ever in the New Heaven and New Earth when God the Father will dwell among us … NO more tears, NO more sickness or pain, NO more death forever!! We cannot even imagine how wonderful it will be, and to know that will just be the beginning of eternity! And the word ‘new’ in Scripture where it describes the New Heaven and New Earth is not ‘new’ as we understand it — new until it gets old, etc. The Ancient Greek word was used to describe the New Heaven and New Earth and means ‘new in character / fresh’ … so that New heaven and earth will remain NEW for all eternity!! Oh wow!! Only a perfect eternal future with God our Creator who made it all possible for all who come to Him in true repentance for salvation and love Him with all their heart, soul and mind, living to bring Him Glory!! It isn’t because any of us are deserving of this incredibly, wonderful eternal future … it’s actually quite the opposite … for we could never, ever earn or deserve such goodness, to know that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ as His Word declares, and scripture also says that we are ‘hidden in Christ’!! It’s ALL because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!! Oh, what great, great GOODNESS, LOVE, MERCY and AMAZING GRACE He has bestowed upon us! Psalm 107:1,2 “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for HE is good, For His loving kindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom HE has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.”
Judy’s spirit is finally at home in the presence of God. For the rest of us still here, until that day of the rapture, we must be strong, standing firm in the faith through the power of His Holy Spirit who indwells every born-again believer and follower of Christ, and stay alert and fully armed for spiritual battle as Ephesians 6:10-20 describes, praying for and encouraging one another, and praying like Daniel, morning, noon and night, praying fervently for those who don’t know the Lord and are not ready to meet God. Only God knows that appointed time for every man and woman. I pray that I will be joyfully eager to share the Good News of this wonderful Gospel at every opportunity possible, in genuine love, gentleness and boldness. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring. Only God knows the day and hour of that glorious day when Christ will rapture the body of believers to meet Him in the air!! I know that Judy’s heart was burdened for all who are not ready for that day, and this is my own heart’s prayer, as I know it is yours too, Peggy … for all of our children and their families to know, love and serve God, according to His Word that is 100% true! Knowing Christ is ALL that matters in this world!! We were created to bring HIM Glory!!! God is more than worthy to be praised, worshiped, loved and served by every created being!!!
So sorry for your loss, Peggy. What beautiful memories you have of Judy. If the tables were turned, I am certain, she would be writing the same things about you. Praying for you. Sending hugs, dear lady.
Thank you Marsha. Your words are balm to my heart.
So very sorry for loss of your friend. What a blessing you must have been to one another. Prayers for you my friend.
Thank you, Faye. Life is fragile. Living each day with purpose is important.
Sooo well said Peggy! I loved her dearly and my heart aches for the conversations we had.
She loved you too, Carmela. She loved when you and Joe visited and stayed at her house.
Sorry for the loss of your friend.
I also am wondering about the heavenly reunion as the years roll by. I notice I miss loved ones more now than I did when they left to join the heavenly group.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts through your writing.
I don’t even remember how I stumbled across your blog now but it was a blessed day!
Dear Lynn, I don’t think I ever replied to your comment, so please forgive the oversight. Your words are so kind and I appreciate you being a follower. I visited your sight this evening and it is very attractive. And you have an Etsy shop. I love that! Keep spreading the good word about our lovely Lord.