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A somber gathering of familiar faces, relatives, and numerous friends was inspiring and yet emotionally taxing. Even still there existed an unexpected sense of warmth on that wintery day. The flow of tears, the sharing of heartfelt hugs, and the consoling words of remembrance are still firmly etched in my mind fully 23 years later. The mourners had all come to the funeral service to pay their respects, support our family, and honor God in doing so. The wide variety of images clearly evident on the faces of those in attendance, each struggling with their own sense of loss, only heightened the emotional stress of losing our beloved Grandma Anna. The grievers would dutifully and temporarily set aside their own grief in an effort to provide much appreciated support to our family.

Over her 95 years, Anna had emulated the spirit of Christ by the methodical and inconspicuous manner in which she had lived her remarkable life. It was evident to all that she possessed something special. She radiated the love that only a committed relationship with Christ could manifest in her actions and gentle spirit. There was never an expression of doubt nor fear for what her future held. She was fully committed to the walk with Christ. She had an assurance that was desirous to all, especially to myself in my youthful years where the early legs of my journey were filled with a need for reassurance that my faith, and God’s plan for my life, would be enough to carry me past my fears and trepidations.

Unfortunately on this day, the one person in attendance that knew the least about Anna, was the pastor presiding over the rite of her funeral service. He was new to the church she had attended for decades as a faithful servant of the God she loved deeply. Upon his arrival to serve in his new role as senior pastor, Anna had already been confined to a nursing home to fight her last battles with health issues as she moved nearer to her eternal healing. Through no fault of his own, he did not know the history of her walk with Christ and the positive impact she had on numerous others during her lifetime. He only knew what he observed in her mannerisms and short conversations during his visits with her, as verbal communication had begun to become laborious for her.

The pastor confided in the audience during his prepared remarks that, from the moment he first visited her, he had this overwhelming sense that he somehow knew her. He had struggled during that time to recall and pinpoint where their paths may have crossed. It was a question that he was convinced had an obvious answer, but that answer had proven to be illusive.

During the service, he revealed that the answer to his quandary had finally come to him. She was living her life in the image of Christ, and her spirit and her face shown the radiance born out of that relationship. This vision of her confirmed that she was embraced and confirmed as a child of God. The new pastor had been preaching for years on the God she had lived her life for. He was embarrassed to admit that he had not immediately recognized the connection, but he used the experience to strengthen his own faith and ministry going forward.

On Friday, April 13, 2018, Jesus swept my father out of his hospital room when no one was watching. It was exactly the way my father would have chosen to go “home”. His ability to see the positive side of life was a direct result of the confidence he had in his savior and His promise of eternal life.

To see him lying motionless in his hospital bed, the overwhelming observation was that the radiance had gone. He always carried a twinkle in his eye, a manifestation of an internal confidence. That confidence was gained over years of faithfully following God’s leading, and seeing God work through his life. My dad is now “home”, and that radiance, his radiance, will be missed by many.

The blessing and confirmation to our family to have had two such role models of life in Christ is acknowledged and treasured by all of us. Our grief at these losses, which predictably gives way to a spirit of celebration of their lives, provides a complete abatement of all our fears. We have assurance of eternal life and that we will be rejoined in heaven with these spiritual pillars of our family. We also embrace that we too must answer God’s calling, live lives that honor God, and share the impact the Holy Spirit has had in our lives. The opportunity is there for all that claim Christ as their savior.

For those of us yet to claim our heavenly reward, what will be said at any of our funerals? It has yet to be written. Our mandate is as described in Psalms 34:4-5. Seek the Lord and he will answer. Our fears dim in the presence of a relationship with Him. The radiance of our relationship with Christ will be evident to all we encounter. God has cast our shame away and has replaced it with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

To live a life that manifests God’s love and presence in our journey, demonstrated by the visible radiance and confidence in our being, is a life mission that should be vigorously pursued by all.

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