All Things Beautiful

Mom and Kids - Small    At the very end, her skin grew pale and thin, like the veil that separates here from There. Her eyes sparkled clear hazel. She saw things. Things that didn’t make sense to us, but she understood because she was already breaking loose and leaning soul into eternity.

The afternoon they brought my mom home so she could spend her final days in her own bed, she was unusually alert and talkative. We had just gotten her settled, pillows fluffed and quilts tucked, when she grinned and reached out a shaky hand.

“It’s gone.” She was staring beyond the bookcase.

“What’s gone, Mom?” I studied her face. The hospice nurses had warned us that dementia was common in end-stage cancer. But Mom was all there.

“The wall. It just disappeared. There are trees, so tall and so green, and waterfalls and lakes. Everything is so bright. And the sky… It’s so beautiful. It’s brilliant blue like the middle of the day, but I can see stars, millions of them.”

    Oh.

And then, in the sacred silence, Mom closed her seeing eyes and took a short nap. Balancing on Heaven’s threshold must be exhausting.

Just over two weeks later, on a humid Carolina August morning much like the tropical ones of my childhood, my mother stepped through the veil to those brilliant starry skies.

It’s winter now, almost eighteen months later. It’s cold and gray and some days I feel soul-stripped like the bare maple outside the window.

And sometimes the homesickness sits like a weight pressing deep into my chest. Heaven used to seem mysterious, even scary. But as I get older it holds more of the familiar – family, friends, two babies I rocked in my womb but not in my arms… And, oh, to be free of grief and pain and all the coiling, cloying destructiveness of sin.

It’s not that I want to die, not at all. It’s just that life is hard. Craving what’s beyond makes sense.

I have to confess that there have been a few times since my mom’s death that I have growled accusations at God. Surely, if he were good, he would just end this madness and take us all home where we could be together forever! It may not make sense, may even by sacrilegious, but it came from a place of honest brokenness.

And, gracious God that he is, I believe he is answering my honest cry with an honest, even gentle, response.

Slowly, as the blanket of grief rolls up at the edges and lets the light through, I am realizing something. I’ve been longing for the wrong thing. Heaven is good, and , yes, glorious eternity is just around the bend! But my mom, my two sweet babies, and so many others I have loved here – they see with their eyes something I’ve ignored. They see why Heaven is good.

Heaven is beautiful, breathtaking, sin-evaporating, grief-healing, heart-pounding, all-restoring, never-ending, mind-blowing, more-than-you-can-ask-or-imagine, because of the One who sits on its throne. When I crave Heaven, I’m missing the mark. Heaven is what it is because its Creator is all of that and more!

James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights. Everything. All of it.

Roasting marshmallows. The flash of fire in diamond. Baby belly laughs. Live music on a warm night. Fresh cut grass on bare feet. Stories from a long time ago. The strength of understanding arms. Apple pie. Ocean sunsets. Clean laundry. The whisper of falling snowflakes. Everything from thunder and lightning and mountain majesty to the eyes wide open of a trusting child.

All that is beautiful and good, everything that make our hearts skip a beat and our breath catch. Everything that makes us want to dance goofy, to spin like children until we’re dizzy with living. All that stops us in our tracks, drops our jaws, quiets our wild consumer searching.

He goes beyond all of these. The best of what we can imagine just brushes the edge of his beauty. Ultimate beauty in broken hands and feet and side…

This is why Heaven itself is not enough. And this is why I don’t have to wait, don’t have to rip free of time and flesh to run headlong into all that is most perfect and radiant.

Some of my mom’s whispered last words were lyrics to a praise chorus.

    “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…”

Last Sunday, we sang the same the chorus at church, and I couldn’t push the tune past the lump in my throat, so, like my mom, I just whispered. And for a second I knew it, could almost see it: her, there under starry bright skies, and me, here in the noisy buzz of a midmorning service, singing true worship together, leaning soul into the Maker of all things beautiful.

____________________
James 1:17 (NLT)

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