Our only answer is that heaven awaits us. We know that the dead in Christ will precede us. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 "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." I have a few friends waiting in heaven. These friends are special because they blessed me during their time on Earth, and helped lay the foundation for my walk with God. The pointed the way before their death, and now they have gone on to their reward. Since it would be a very satisfying thing to be able to say, "Thank you for giving to the Lord..." I will say thank you to ten friends who have gone on to heaven before me.
1) Sister Burgess- I never knew her first name, just what everybody called her. Then again, I was 5 years old. But, I was old enough to remember our house had burned to the ground not long before I met her. Her Sunday School class was my first experience with church, that I remember at least. She had us sit in a circle of chairs. I was always short anyways, so my feet didn't even hang off the chair, but stuck straight out. I was looking at her eyes. They were so pretty and bright, as if she had light inside of her. I realized that while I was looking at her eyes, she was having each child in the circle say a Bible verse from memory. I had not read the Bible yet. I never spoke much anyways. I didn't have to worry, because when she came to me, she must have realized by my silence that I didn't know any verses. She said, "Say, 'God is love.'" I can't believe I answered her, but the words sounded so beautiful to hear her say them, and I said them after her. She was quite old, or at least she seemed ancient to me. Each week I would wait for her to provide the words again, though she always chose the same ones for me, and I certainly remembered them. I just wanted to hear her say them again. I could see that she knew God. I decided right away that I wanted to meet Him. Thanks to Sister Burgess for showing me the light of God and creating in me a thirst to know Him.
2)Sister Bolenbaucher- Fast forward 8 years, to the point just after I had decided at 13 that if there really WAS a God, He was so far away that I would never know Him. Paul Bolenbaucher's wife was a dear lady and I could see that if anybody was certain to go to heaven it was her. I've mentioned her husband already in an earlier post. I remember hearing her speak in a district ladies' retreat, saying "God never changes." I could see that she must have changed a lot over the years of her life, and I was certain that she had been alive long enough to measure that God had not changed in her lifetime. That seemed to carry a lot of clout with me, her testimony. I believed it meant something because she said it did. I was saddened to hear of her death, and I remember many people from around the state came to her memorial service in Georgia. I think her funeral was in Texas though, if memory serves me correctly. Many people loved her. She is certain to be surrounded by friends in heaven. I certainly can't wait until I see her there one day.
3)Lettie Cooley- Sister Cooley was another dear lady who I knew in McDonough. She treated my kids like they were her grandkids, which she did all of the kids I think. She was a sweet, kind soul and a prayer warrior. I used to love to see her and Kate pray together. I remember them praying at a watchnight vigil service and the site struck me then of how it would look to see them shouting on streets of gold one day. And, they are waiting on me I know. Thanks Sister Cooley!
4)Kate Allen- Kate was half blind, and loved to have me read the Bible to her. She had a close relationship with God, and often people would look at us when I drove her down the street, because sometimes she would start praying in the car, in the Spirit. :) She just spent much of her day praying, because she couldn't really get out much. Usually when I went over it was earlier in the morning. But, one day I went by in the evening and surprised her. When I walked into her living room, where she had been sitting all evening praying, I could feel the Spirit of God heavy and thick, present in the room, as if God Himself came down to listen to her words in the evening. It was like Cornelious whose prayers reached up to heaven. I will never forget the warmth of God's presence there around her. I thank God for the chance to know her.
5)Dean Woods- Dean just passed away a month ago. She was my Aunt-in-Law, a church planter, and a prayer warrior. I learned much about contentment and keeping my mouth shut from her example. I never heard her say a negative word in my life. She was at camp meeting the year she woke up and found her husband passed away in his sleep. She remained a widow until her death. She worshipped God like a young woman, though she was about 90 went she died. She had took care of her mother up until her death near her nineties, with her in her seventies. I believe God honors those who honors their parents with long life. I remember her best with her hands raised in worship. They usually were, most of the times I saw her. I can't picture her any other way in heaven, but with her arms raised worshipping Jesus.
6)Louise Mitchell- Louise was Dean's sister, and my Mother-in-law. Her and Dean lived through the Great Depression. I suppose that's where they learned to not complain. We have so much and we still complain. Odd. But, Louise was the Proverbs 31 woman in the flesh. I can think of no other way to describe her. She spent her life taking care of her family. Her husband died at home with Alzeimers. She cared for him herself until his death, refusing to put him in a nursing home. I noticed she went to a nursing home before her death, as did Dean in the last three months of her life. This seems to be the way it is for people who are always taking care of others. No one is left to take care of them. I don't understand this.
7)Grandmaw Wilson- Grandmaw was Dean and Louise's Mother, and she wasn't as soft and sweet as they were. She was a spitfire, and seemed to have the authority of Methuselah. She didn't mince words either, but I remember her getting onto adults in her family for not doing the right thing. She would tell them they needed to do the right thing and get a job. Things like that. She didn't sugar coat it either. She took the Bible seriously, and seemed to be able to cut right to the heart of an issue, with God'ly wisdom. You couldn't pull the wool over her eyes. I am thankful that she taught me to have gumption. They say, all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. This is what makes the story of Joe Paterno so sad. He did nothing while boys were being raped. Grandmaw would have had the guts to call the police on her own child, if he was commiting a crime like that. I am thankful for spirited women like her.
8)Claude Smith- He was the pastor of the church in Rome when I was in college. "The worst battles are fought from inside the church, and from inside hearts." I heard Claude Smith say this more than once. Years later he died while the church was in the middle of a great revival. He was a good man and served the Lord with wisdom. He was my pastor for a number of years, and I remember that he was always smiling. He laughed and joked a lot too. He seemed to be enjoying life, often joked about the fact that he had four kids. I spent a lot of time as a young married wife at their home and we played Trivia Pursuit and talked until late at night sometimes. I am thankful that I had a chance to learn from his exuberance for life, and love for God.
9)Emily Locke Nix- My paternal grandmother seemed to me to be a saint. Though my father abandoned us when I was two, and my mother was pregnant, his parents loved us. They told me themselves he was not right for what he had done. They loved to have us visit, and we did once a year. The weeks we spent there every summer were like vacations in paradise. She was sweet and kind. She was the best cook in the world and used to can and preserve foods which she stocked in a cellar outside. They were farmers. She made goat's buttermilk. Papaw used to laugh and joke so much but she would just smile. He would ask me while she was frying chicken, "You know what part of the chicken I like best?" Then he would wink at her and smile, and she would look embarrassed as he laughed and answered, "The legs, the breast, and all the rest!" He was a real character, but it was later when I was older before this "inside joke" was clearly funny to me. I just liked the way he laughed and she blushed when he said it. But, I remember going to church with her. She loved the Lord and I know she will be in heaven when I get there. I am thankful for having had such a wonderful person in my life. I miss her. She passed away 25 years ago, and her son didn't come to her funeral. That stood out to me. Now, he is old and alone in the world somewhere. He abandoned his children, and his parents. Now, he has no family. That is really sad, but that's why you should love your children and love your parents. They are your very life.
10)Brother Long- I believe his first name was Homer. But, he was the father of a large family. I remember they liked church so much that they didn't just go to our church, their home church, but usually visited revivals around the area every other night of the week. They were always in church somewhere it seemed every night. But, he was cleaning the church yard up one weekend, and was injured acidentally while blowtorching the lid off of a steel drum to dispose of it, from what I was told. He died working for the Lord. I wrote a poem inspired by his death.
A Beginning Somewhere
There is a way that all shall go,
A path that all shall follow;
There is an end to every life,
A resting place for the soul.
Yet for every ending of life,
There is a beginning somewhere;
For every ending in sorrow,
There's a beginning of joy up there.
When one fine morning I walk that land,
When I'm done with all earthly cares;
As I stand by the river of life I'll see,
There is a beginning somewhere.
I hope your heart is blessed in some way by hearing about these special people who have gone on to heaven before me. And, I hope that they inspire you like they have me to want to join them in Glory one day. Tomorrow, I will share thanks for 10 of the students that I have taught who affected me greatly. Then you will see why I can say that children are my reversed heritage.