“Absent from the Body – Present with the Lord” (2Cor. 5v8)

A few days before the end of 2010 my father took a severe stroke. What a shock that was and how my loved ones have rallied around for the seven weeks (to the very day) that he died! How much we shall miss him – especially my mother; yet I have that assurance in my heart that Dad is with His Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. On Saturday 19th February as Dad’s body made its last journey down the tree- lined avenue from his home, it was a beautiful day. New baby shoots were pushing their way up through the soil – the promise of another spring of growth and of the warmth of the sun, after winter’s dark cold sorrow. Yes, I cry as I write this, in the knowledge that I shall never see that dear face, or hear his voice on this earth again but I have such joy in serving my father’s risen Saviour who has given me that ‘peace which passes all understanding.’ Now I must go, in His strength, to proclaim His love for all mankind, for I am aware, more than ever of the brevity of life and of the need for souls to be ready for His coming again. I felt privileged to do the reading from 1Thessalonians 4v13-18 at Dad’s funeral service. With trembling hands I opened at this reading which commences with the words… “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”  

After the long journeys made to his bedside these past seven weeks, I had been feeling drained and yet the Lord gave me the strength to climb the steps to the lectern, to do this reading. Hundreds of faces stared up – something which would leave me quivering under normal circumstances, as I am a naturally shy person, but I was doing this for the Lord – and His servant, my Dad. Afterwards my three daughters hugged me and I was greeted with the words: “Grandad would have been so proud of you.”

The two hymns which rang out that day were: “My Jesus I love thee, I know thou art mine” by W.R. Featherston and “Jesus the Name high over all” by Charles Wesley. I love the final verse of “My Jesus I love thee…”

“In mansions of glory and endless delight

I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow

If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ‘tis now.”

And I love the final verse of “Jesus the Name high over all…”

“Happy, if with my final breath

I might but gasp His name,

Preach Him to all, and cry in death,

‘Behold, behold the Lamb!”

Outside the church another sea of faces greeted me; some I had not seen since childhood and scarcely knew now. Hands shook mine, old acquaintances embraced me and a world of people from another era of my life floated around. It was almost surreal; I walked as if in a dream with my loved ones behind the funeral cortège, down the village street where I had walked as a child from school. Later at the ‘Orchard cemetery,’ in a lovely rural setting just outside the village of Richhill, my husband and daughters were a comfort as the interment took place. As the coffin was lowered into the grave, the sun suddenly came out in full force, shining strongly and triumphantly through the clouds and I felt embraced by its kindly warmth. How I felt the Lord’s strong Presence and reassurance with me at that moment!

That night my eldest daughter had a dream; she wakened and said to me: “Mum, Grandad is alright. I dreamed that he hugged me and told me not to cry. In the dream he was tall, strong and healthy… and so happy. But when he hugged me, it was as if there was something separating us… ”

“Yes love,” I said, “he is alright. I know that.”

And yes, there is something separating us – the last enemy which is death. Perhaps I will face it some day – and maybe not, but this I know…

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4v16-18)

My prayer is that all who read would trust in the precious Name of my Dad’s Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation!

Link to these hymns: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/m/j/e/mjesusil.htm

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/j/n/a/jnamhigh.htm

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