I want to tell you a story—an incredible story. A true story. It’s about someone who is very dear to me—my mother.
Mom passed away after a seven-month battle with cancer. She was only 66 years old. Her life is a tremendous testimony of someone who had a personal relationship with her heavenly Father, and I hope that by reading this story, you can be stirred to strive for a greater love for God and a stronger faith for eternal life.
A fervent longing for God
My mom was an extremely efficient and hard-working woman. Organization, neatness, and punctuality were priorities in our home. Mom paid particular attention to details and was an expert at arranging things so that mishaps could be avoided, if at all possible. Bills had to be paid on time, appointments needed to be kept, deadlines must be met—she was a very busy woman. And, in the midst of it all, she always found time to warm the hearts of her many, many friends with emails, texts, phone calls, or gifts. The word “boredom” was not in her vocabulary! She was free to be whom God made her, without trying to impress anyone, and was much loved by many people in the community.
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth…When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:2,4.
There were many times throughout Mom’s life that it was easy to see that God’s Word was becoming a lifeline and a reality for her. One time when I knew she was going through a particularly trying time, I asked her how she was doing. She began to weep, and said that sometimes things happened that she didn’t understand, but she also knew that she didn’t need to understand it. Her task was simply to keep her heart and thoughts pure, so she could gain something of eternal value from that trial. That reply made me realize that she had a deep connection with God, and that all she wanted was to please Him.
In her situations, she cast her cares upon God and was becoming free from anxieties, which resulted in a bright, happy spirit and an ability to comfort others who were also going through trials. She prayed often for the young people, especially for the ones who were struggling, and was able to encourage them with the help she had received herself, from God’s Word.
Although Mom kept very busy right up until she was physically not able to anymore, it became more and more apparent that there was a hidden work going on in her heart. She often quoted Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” It was so clear that she firmly believed in this verse, and that her first love was for God and not for things of the earth.
As her body became weak and broken, it was as if an inner light began to radiate out of the cracks. Thankfulness poured out. Even when she lacked energy to get up off the couch, she would quietly ask my sister and me to make sure the guests had coffee and snacks, and were comfortable. Always serving! She didn’t seem to be concerned about the house being a little messy, or if the garden was starting to get overgrown. Even though she had been very diligent to look after the things that God had given her in life, her sights were also set much higher than that which is temporal. It was clear that she had eternity in mind and was getting ready to meet her good Shepherd.
A life-changing experience
The last days of my mom’s life made such a life-changing impression on me. We had a bed set up for her in the living room at my parents’ home, and we spent the last few days talking, reading, and singing together. Many people came to visit her, and she had very personal, encouraging words for each one. She was not afraid to die. It was obvious that she was not burdened down by the cares of this life. She had read and believed in God’s Word, and it was a comfort to her. As she grew weaker and could no longer speak or respond, she just lay in bed with her eyes closed. Then one evening, when some of us were in another room, my brother suddenly called us to come to mom’s bedside.
What I experienced when I entered the room will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Her eyes were wide open and focused far beyond the ceiling; eyes that were crystal-clear blue, like I have never seen them before! She was smiling and looking straight into heaven. We could all feel heaven right there in the room. We stood around her bed and sang to her as she took her last breath and was welcomed into the arms of Jesus, whom she had loved and served during her time here on earth. It was almost as if we could see Jesus and the saints looking down, reaching down for her, and I had an incredibly strong desire to go there too.
I can never describe the feeling of peace and happiness that filled the room at that moment. And in those last seconds, I made a firm decision that I will live the rest of my days here on earth in such a way that I too will go straight through the gates of heaven when my time comes. How foolish it is to let myself become burdened down by things of this earth that will pass away anyway, putting my trust in my possessions, my reputation, or my achievements. If I am not watchful, I can easily be consumed by temporal things.
My heavenly citizenship
My calling is much higher than that, and I need to lift my eyes to look into heaven, for that is where my citizenship is. “My home is not here, but above,” we sing in a song from the songbook “Ways of the Lord.” We are as pilgrims here on this earth, yearning for something more, with “a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:19.
It’s also written in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This longing for eternal life drives me to be awake and watchful during the daily situations, so I fight to get victory over those sins that would hinder me. God has given me possessions and circumstances in life over which I can learn to be a steward, using these things to bring honor to God and to lay up treasures in heaven. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21. I can do this by fighting against my own selfishness and pride, knowing that everything I have, I have received from a loving Father.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Even though I have experienced grief and sorrow after losing my mother, it makes the wall between us and heaven seem so much thinner when I think about her being together with Jesus and the saints on the other side, praying for me and cheering me on.
I look forward to meeting her again one day in heaven. The tangible, tremendous joy, peace and glory that I witnessed and experienced that evening when Jesus came to take Mom home, has given me a glimpse into what is awaiting us in heaven, when we are faithful here on earth. It has brought eternity very near, and every day has become more precious, meaningful and sobering in that light.
“I can’t take time with things of earth
Which other people think have worth.
I cannot carry on with such,
For that would slow me down too much.
Yes, I must always travel light,
With readiness for truth to fight.
I hasten on, for soon I’ll be
With Jesus, saved eternally.”
(Elihu Pedersen, “Almond Blossom” #81)