My father-in-law passed away three days ago. Before you think that this blog is going to be a sad commentary on what it's like to lose a loved one, let me assure you that this post is anything but that! Are we going to miss him? Absolutely! He was the best father-in-law that I could have ever asked for -- from day one, he accepted me as his child and loved me like his own. He was a simple man, and most of the time, saw life through rose-colored glasses. By the world's standards, he was probably an ordinary man. But for those whose lives he touched, he stood for kindness, compassion, and acceptance; standards I would call exemplary.
But this isn't about the life he lived. This blog is about the end of his life and his transition to the Kingdom of God. Let me start by saying that he was a man of simple and steadfast faith. In his younger years, he played Jesus, Andrew, Simon Peter and Barabbas in various Easter pageants at his Church. He was a faithful church-goer and loved the Lord in all the "church ways". But in the last seven years or so, he began to desire to come "out of religion" and know the truth about his Savior and what his purpose on this earth was supposed to be. It wasn't always easy for him to understand how we, as Christians, had strayed so far from what the Bible clearly revealed about our faith, but he was willing to examine his own belief system and grow his understanding as he asked the hard questions he had never considered before.
Mind you, this wasn't easy for him. Frankly, some of the revelations that Mark and I have received from the Lord were difficult for him to comprehend. But, I can honestly say that he had "the faith of a child", and he was always able to glean the simple, uncomplicated truth at the heart of the subject. At the core of his being, he believed in Jesus as His Savior -- pure and simple.
So when his body began to be attacked by rheumatoid arthritis and COPD, and his lungs began failing him, we prayed for healing. He wondered why God didn't heal him, but he never lost his faith. And he never stopped praying for others. That was another beautiful thing about him ... he could pray the most heartfelt, honest and genuine prayers that I have ever heard. They weren't flowery or religious; again, they were simple appeals that came from a heart that loved and trusted Jesus.
Then, when it became apparent that he was getting tired of fighting his body's ailments, he let us know he was ready for Hospice care. The day that the Hospice administrator came to explain to him and the family how this process would play out, I saw a man who was prepared to face the end of his life with strength and dignity; there was no doubt about his decision. As Mark and his mom went to the bedroom to discuss how the hospital equipment would be arranged, I went back out to the living room where he was left sitting. I told him I would like to come visit with him, just me and him, and answer any questions he might have about what would happen when he went to heaven. He said he would like that, and we made arrangements for me to come in a few days.
So, I brought my Bible and he got his, and we examined what we knew about how the process of dying worked and what it meant for us as human beings. We talked about us being a three-part being -- body, soul, and spirit. And he read 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 which tells us that this body is a temporary dwelling place for our spirit, which was created by Jesus since the foundations of the world -- before the earth even! We talked about how our spirit lies dormant in our earthly body until it is activated by the Holy Spirit when we get Saved. We also discussed that while our spirit is in this body, we are absent from our original home, which is heaven, and we long to return there.
We read Ephesians 2:6 and praised God that being Saved, our spirits are seated with Christ in Heaven. In other words, that we have access to Him now, while still on earth, and that when we die our spirit returns to be with Jesus and live eternally with Him. My sweet father-in-law wanted to know what he was going to do when he got to heaven. So we talked about what it would be like to rule and reign with Christ, and what our training might be once we get to heaven.
We celebrated that he would live in the Millennial Kingdom with a resurrected body that would be perfect, renewed, transformed, indestructible, and not subject to the afflictions that his earthly body had suffered. He would never get sick again with the pneumonia that had plagued him for the last year and never experience death again. He would still have his personality, but without any hint of sin. And the best part of going to Heaven would be knowing and enjoying God at a new and higher level; there would be assignments and instruction to help him know and worship God more than he could now imagine.
But it was our last final visit that, in hindsight, I could see how the Holy Spirit prepared him for his last moments on earth. This time, Mark and his mother were present as we engaged in our talk about Heaven. Again, he was a little unsettled about what those last moments and the transition might be like. I asked him if he knew that the moment he died, the next instant he would be in the presence of His Lord. He knew that, but there was a part of his soul that was still more attached to his flesh than to his spirit, and was struggling with some apprehension. Then the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for his spirit. So, I began to pray over his spirit, thanking the Lord for being in our midst, and I began to bless his spirit, reminding it that it was created in the image of God, therefore it was light from Light. I reminded his spirit that it was a flame being mingled with the fire of Jesus Christ; that it came from the breath of God. I charged it with the strength and life of Jesus Christ. I praised his spirit and called for the oil of anointing to be poured over it, and to be washed in living water and fed the bread of Life, which is Jesus. I called for healing and for a light emanating the glory of God over his spirit. And finally, I thanked the Lord for the healing and restoration that was manifesting in his spirit that moment, and softly said, "Amen".
When I asked him if he was feeling anything in his spirit, he said, "I'm feeling warm and it's getting hotter". I knew that was the Holy Spirit mingling with his spirit, setting it on fire! And then we agreed to meet again in a few days and continue our discussions. But here's the thing ... Hospice had told us that the average life span of a person. once hospice began, was 4-6 months, but sometimes people lived for a year or longer. So I was anticipating many more of these sweet, blessed times together to prepare him for his spirit's return home. But his spirit, once activated and "switched on", took control of its own journey.
There was no long, lingering illness, supplemented by morphine to "make him comfortable". There was no more shut-down from his body; nothing in the body failed, causing death. Four days after that last blessed assembly, his spirit made its own decision to go home... just as I think it should be for each and every one of us. His flesh didn't decide; his soul wasn't mired in anguish and fear; and Satan and Death were not allowed to linger in a long, slow, and painful process. After making sure that he stayed long enough on earth to give his wife the gift of celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary, the next morning he woke from the first night of restful sleep since the Hospice process had begun, announced he felt good, and then just went back to sleep, and his spirit departed for its heavenly home.
.... It's been less than a week now since my father-in-law's spirits slipped away from the bonds of this earth. We can't help but notice the look of astonishment and puzzlement on the faces of people who don't understand why we aren't sad. Although we will greatly miss his presence in our lives, we got to witness one of the most beautiful visions of what it is like for our spirits to defeat Death. It is cause for rejoicing with all of Heaven! I am so thrilled for him! And I know that my feeble attempts to describe what his entrance and existence in Heaven would look like are nothing in comparison to the reality of what he is experiencing! And if this narration of what I saw and encountered helps someone else who is facing the impending death of a loved one -- or the end of their own life -- then I want to reassure you that our Lord has made a way to transition from this life to the next. When it is my time, I want to remember to take control of my own spiritual state and do it the Lord's way. It was a most glorious tribute to the power of God to defeat Death!
The prayer I prayed over my father-in-law was "Prayer for the Spirit of Man" from Prayers that Shake Heaven and Earth by Dan Duval.
1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?