We prayed, as we have over the last couple of years she has struggled with pneumonia and infections, that God would bring healing to her body. But even as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday showed improvement in her appearance and even her ability to communicate, it became clearer that it was her time.
On Friday, she rallied and entertained everyone who came near her with her humor and off the wall comments. On Saturday, she was still and quiet. Her breathing was slower, and a little more labored.
There is a strange joy in knowing she is ready to go. A strange peace knowing she was at peace with her maker. She had settled that account long ago, knowing that because Jesus died on the cross for her sins, knowing that she trusted in what Jesus had done, she would wake up in the presence of her savior.
There is always a sadness in death. A sadness as she told me she wasn't going to make it. But with a follower of Jesus, the sadness is overshadowed. She was still worried about her family. She was still in pain from the broken state of her body. But her humor shown through as we talked about the funeral. After all, Bernice always had a good sense of humor.
On Saturday night, after all the family had left the hospital for the evening, Bernice quietly breathed her last on this earth and went home to be with her Savior. I imagine it was pretty good day all around for her. As she lay there in the hospital bed, with her family surrounding her, to hear them talking about what 'ma' or 'Aunt Bernice' (niecey) had done for them, or said to them, about what she meant to them. And then, thinking on those thoughts, and looking forward to being reunited with her son, she slipped away from this life. And, just like that, the pain was gone, the mortal bands that held her back were gone and the joy of being surrounded by family was eclipsed by being in the presence of her Savior.
I remember how much Bernice enjoyed Easter morning in church. Handing out candies to the kids, having her grand-daughters all dressed up in beautiful dresses and by her side, rejoicing in the resurrection! I think this past Easter morning was far more grand and glorious for Bernice.
So yes, we will have a funeral this Wednesday morning. We will have visiting / viewing hours on Tuesday night. But these are just details to help those who are left behind. Bernice is already home. And while she awaits the resurrection, she is already free. I will miss her, but because I know she is free, I will celebrate with her. It is the same as when a friend moves away because of a life-changing job offer or opportunity. We celebrate through our sorrow. We will continue our new 'tradition.' In the foyer, greeting all those who come to pay their last respects, will be a cake. A bright and cheery cake that congratulates Bernice on her promotion. It won't erase the tears of sorrow left by her absence, but will remind us that she is finally home.
It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose,
To spend eternal years.
It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing
To live among the just.
Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.
- Henri Malan, translated by George Bethune
Because Jesus is risen, there is hope, there is promise, there is life!
Keep looking up!
Keep looking up!