Five months ago, I stood in my bathroom staring into a mirror stained with specks of toothpaste spit. I fixed my hair, pulling it behind my ears, and made my face up with all the chemicals, creams, and colors.
Then I took a brush to my son’s hair, long curls of auburn red, just like my own. I told him we were dressing up, even though we weren’t leaving the house, even though we were only going to turn the computer on and sit in our dining chairs to watch the virtual viewing of my grandfather who lost life to the faint pushing of breath in his lungs.
I still remember when I learned the news, how he had COVID, how it seeped into his body, lungs filling with fluid, heart heaving weaker and weaker with every faint breath.
When we lost him, I was eight months round and in the swell of pregnancy with my second son. When we lost him, the world was in the swell of a high wave of rising COVID cases. The nightmare of the worst year ending at Christmas and folding right into the New Year, loved ones losing life, left and right.
I watched the viewing as the wobbly camera captured my family speaking words of remembrance and sprinkling flowers atop my grandfather’s grave. I watched the snow on the burial grounds glisten as it lit up under the sun, reflecting right on through my computer screen. I could almost feel the chill of New York’s bitter air as much as I felt the warm tears rolling down my cheeks, crying muted into the camera while watching this virtual viewing.
The tears came because there was sorrow, but the tears also came because there was hope. As I sat there, cradling life in one hand and death in the other, I listened to the story of my grandfather’s last few moments, how he pointed to the ceiling of that hospital room and motioned to his three children that he was ready to be home, really home.
I sat there, tears branding themselves into my heart, and I couldn’t help but think about the little girl within me, and how she had always carried a fear of death because she felt that it was close. Like the passing of her aunt when her heart gave out, the time the cancer took her grandmother away, or the annual memorial services for her grandfather, a Black police officer slain in the name of revolution — every year hearing the gunshots go out as men in kilt skirts played processionals on bagpipes. And how the little girl within me grew up seeing her brother fall to the floor in epileptic episodes, fearing that every bump in the house was the sound of her brother’s head banging on the ground and bleeding out.
But as I sat there, watching light ricochet off the frost-bitten ground, I did not feel a freeze seep into my breath or embitter my bones. I did not feel a sting, a burning anger, or that raging need-to-know of why and how. I did not see a body swallowed up by dirt and death. Instead, I saw hope rise as I reflected on the life of a man who had lived a life loyal to the love of Christ — a man who brought me up himself to know and trust the ways and words of God. Not a perfect man, but a professing man — a man who knew he needed God’s grace and who believed in the salvation that Jesus’ death offers.
I couldn’t help but think that if he could believe it right down to the moment of his passing, right down to the last breath, down to that moment when he motioned with his fingers that he knew where he was going and was ready to go, then so could I.
I know it doesn’t happen everyday that your grandfather, or some other beloved of yours, dies and inspires you to believe that death is not the end and that there is more to this life, but then I’m reminded that there was another Man whose death so many years ago brought more hope and healing into the world than it did hurt.
His death not only brought healing and hope for our lives here on earth, but it made healing and hope possible for every part of our hearts that longs to believe there is more to life. Jesus’ death, if we let it, gives us a healing truth and hope to hold onto, even while we cannot take on someone else’s pain or suffering or heart fading out, even though we cannot extend their time on earth, cannot keep the blood flowing, the heart beating, the lungs breathing. Even still, we can find hope in knowing that last gaping breath does not have to be the end.
In Christ, death is only the beginning. And we don’t need to fear that beginning because it will be the beautiful start to a breathtaking eternity with an ever-loving, everlasting God.Leave a Comment
Beth Williams says
For Christians death is only the beginning. Sure you will miss your loved one, but be happy for they are with Jesus. Before dad died he asked how he could “find the pretty woman in the picture-which was their wedding day”. I simply said you will have to die & go to Heaven. Wanda has told me that when she passes she wants the song “Going Away Party” played loud. For she is soaring to be with God & see her husband once again. My understanding is that once a person dies they are no longer suffering down here & their souls are instantly flown to Heaven. I can’t want for the day to see my Jesus.
Such powerful words. The fear of death as I get older reminds of things not yet done for me and how I do not want to waste any more time. During the pandemic I felt as though time was quickly passing by in a effort to distance and keep myself safe. I am trying to embrace life more fully and focus on others more. Thank you for sharing.
Esther Pearson says
Beautifully written from the heart. Thank you.
frances wriston says
my husband went through stomach cancer surgery and when his time a year later he said it’s going to be beautiful we truly believe in those few hours he saw a vision and we knew he was ready yes-we have a heavenly home and we wait our turn
Such beautiful words of hope. I would like to read more of your story.
Brenda Simon says
Your article was a blessing to my soul! I relate to the feelings of loss that you explained. You summed up so beautifully how death can erase the fear of death. Jesus Christ died that we might have hope of a beautiful life after death! Thanks for sharing!
All my life I have feared death. I remember my mom who would throw herself on the floor and wail and as a six year old I didn’t know about mental health but only thought she was going to die.
When I left the house at eighteen I married a man who I thought showed me love, I really didn’t know what it looked like. That man almost took my life with a double barrel shot gun.
Throughout my life there have been different experiences yet today as I sit and read this article I am drawn to the fact that dying is only the beginning with our life with Christ.
Carolyn Snow says
This was absolutely beautiful. Only what God teaches us. It came from HIS Father Heart your writing…. Thank you for sharing this. It touched my heart…
My 45 year old son died from pancreatic cancer, after a 10 month battle. I was at his side for the time. I have never felt so helpless in my life. In his last day, he reached out several times as if he were greeting someone to embrace them. I have no doubt of his salvation and I have no doubt that he really did see someone in the room with us. Your article is beautifully written and touched my heart so deeply. It reflects so much of my feelings about death. I have no fear now. My son, my Mom, my Dad, my brother, and my blessed Savior wait for me there. Thank you for sharing this encouragement and affirmation.
Janet Williams says
Rachel, thank you for sharing the “God filled” memories of your grandfather. I’m sorry for your loss.
It’s true, as you wrote, we are not always inspired “to believe that death is not the end and that there is more to this life”
“we can find hope in knowing that last gaping breath does not have to be the end. In Christ, death is only the beginning”
Becky Keife says
As always, your words sing like poetry and stir my heart toward deeper reflection and hope. Thank you for sharing your grandfather with us — “a life loyal to the love of Christ” — may it also be true of us. Love you.
Nancy Ruegg says
I’ve heard and read amazing stories of inexplicable peace in the room of a dying loved one, visions of Jesus and angels, smiles on the faces of those who are just moments from taking their last breaths. Praise God for such testimonies, including that of your grandfather, that assure us we have nothing to fear!
Friend, this is breathtakingly beautiful! Oh how I can relate to this: “The tears came because there was sorrow, but the tears also came because there was hope.” This is how I felt when my husband breathed his last. Glory’s gain!
Ljudmila Petrovic says
In Christ we find a whole new beginning that will take us to places we have never been!
Receive it and Believe it my friend!
I needed that love and reassurance that death is not an end but the beautiful road to eternity Thank you