Death is final, but heaven is real
Photo by Florian van Duyn on Unsplash
For some time now, you’ve been struggling with a seeming dichotomy: Death is final, but heaven is real.
When your late wife Melissa passed away unexpectedly on November 6, 2020, even in the midst of your grief, you had an immediate confidence that she was now in heaven.
This confidence was based partly on verses that you’ve learned from the Bible over your lifetime:
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.” — John 14:1-3
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Philippians 3:20
At that time, you also immediately had very strong feelings as to her eternal destination. Many people are skeptical of trusting feelings, but you speak from your own experience that during times of grief, feelings can be some of the strongest and most supportive indicators that we have.
Then around a month ago, or even more, during your weekly session with your therapist, she said something that stopped you in your tracks. She said, with regard to my wife, “It seems to me that you haven’t fully acknowledged that she’s not coming back.”
It was like an unexpected slap to the face. Not harmful, not vengeful. Just something that immediately got your attention.
You were silent for a moment as the words began to sink in. It was one of those strange moments when time seems to stand still, yet your mind was filled with so many thoughts.
You eventually asked her, quietly, “What did you just say?”
She repeated, “It seems to me that you haven’t fully acknowledged that she’s not coming back.”
The therapist wasn’t being mean — she was confronting you with an idea that you needed to meet head on.
You took another moment to really think about that statement. You knew she wasn’t wrong — this was something you had not been able to fully acknowledge.
You asked her, “Can you repeat that one more time?”
She answered, “Of course. It seems to me that you haven’t fully acknowledged that she’s not coming back.”
The truth of that was starting to work on you as you sat with it for another minute.
Then you asked, “Can you repeat just that last part, but slowly?”
She breathed in, as if she was steeling herself for what she knew was about to happen, and she slowly said, “She’s… Not… Coming… Back.”
And that was the moment that something inside of you broke. Your faith didn’t break, nor your belief in heaven and Melissa’s presence there.
What broke was this wall that you had built up around you and your son, protecting both of you, at least in your mind, from your future without her.
You realized that at 45 years old, you still feasibly have 20 to 30 years of life left. You had been married to Melissa for 23 years. Was it possible that you could still live more years of life than you had been married to her?
Your son was 13. You couldn’t even begin to consider the events in his life that would now happen without his mom — birthdays, driver’s education, high school, graduation, dating, college, marriage, children?
These thoughts were like a wrecking ball on this wall you had built around your mind and my heart. You were suddenly exposed to this harsh reality, and you wept openly at this new acceptance of what life would be like now with her absence.
When you married Melissa, you promised to love her “until death do us part.” You never imagined that death would come so soon for one of you.
You realized you had fulfilled my vow — you loved her to the end — and while you are sure you will never stop loving her in some way, your responsibility to her has changed in a way that you can’t yet fully articulate.
Death has parted you — but you still have your son to raise and care for.
Death has parted you — but you still have this legacy of her that you desire to protect.
Death has parted you — but you still have all of her “stuff” in your house that you need to figure out what to do with.
Death has parted you — but you will somehow still be connected for the foreseeable future.
Death has parted you — but she will always be a part of your lives because of her influence in your lives.
It’s weird, this dichotomy you have finally begun to acknowledge. You and your son will live the rest of your earthly lives without any further interaction or input from Melissa. Admit it: At least from your earthly perspective, death is final.
At the same time, you have this confidence, this hope of heaven. You know where she is now, in the presence of God.
A few nights ago, you had a very long dream about visiting and traveling through Europe again (you’ve had the privilege to make two separate trips to Europe when you were younger). And when you woke up from your dream, you immediately had the thought, “I wonder what Melissa has been up to this morning?” As though you would walk out into the living room and find her sitting in her chair, working on a knitting project, watching some TV show. It took a minute or two for reality to settle into your mind, and even when it did, it wasn’t a sad realization; just more of an “Oh, yeah…” moment.
You texted your brother about it, and he wisely texted back, “She’s been having a good day.” 🙂
And he’s right. She is having a good day. Every day in heaven is good. You no longer have to be concerned with how her day is going.
Now it’s up to you. What kind of day will you have, with the situations you have? Can you face up to the realities and hold them in one hand while holding the promises of God in the other hand? They’re not separate issues; just two ingredients that come together to make up what is now your life.
God will give you the strength to hold onto both.Posted on September 20, 2021 #death #heaven