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Learning To Die

This post was published in the October Courier for First Baptist Church of Hamilton Ohio. and is republished by permission.

jeremyLearning to Die

by Pastor Jeremy Spence

The words that came out of her mouth were these, “Dying is fun. I am looking forward to it.” If I wouldn’t have personally known her I would have thought she was crazy. But, she was far from being crazy. My grandmother is the one who uttered those words and in so doing started to teach my family and me, what it meant to die well, and with dignity. It would be the final lesson she would teach, culminating a life of teaching us how to live. It is also a lesson I will never forget. When my grandmother was given the diagnosis of liver cancer and 3 months to live she started on her final journey on earth, committed to finishing well. As she courageously faced cancer in the eye she graciously welcomed all who came into her home, especially her family.

As I was able to share at her funeral, her last months reminded me of the final days of Moses’ life as we read them in Deuteronomy 33. After Moses was told by God that he was going to die he blessed each tribe and in so doing blessed God. My grandmother did the exact same thing. As each of her grandchildren, and those we married, filed past her one last time she pronounced words of blessings, pride, and encouragement. She wanted to make sure we knew what she thought of us, and also how we should live going forward.

For me I heard the following words. “Jeremy, stay true to the holy calling of God on your life. I am very proud of you and your family. I love you very much. Your dad would be very proud of the man you have become. I know I will see you again”. There could have been no sweeter words spoke or a greater blessing given than what she spoke to me. She confidently and boldly proclaimed a blessing that was unique, challenging, but filled with the faith that God would be the one to work all things out for His good.

Those last days I believe Grandma spent them like she did most days, praying for her family and loved ones. As I reflected on her life during the funeral it came to me that my grandmother impacted at least 5 generations for The Lord in ways that most people wish they could do for just one generation. She prayed persistently and faithfully that all her grandchildren would know Jesus. All of us have made that commitment. She prayed for her pastor and her church that God would be glorified. Many people have come into the Kingdom because of her prayers. She prayed that she would be found faithful during all the days God granted her on this world. I
know she was found faithful.

After all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren would come to visit giving her thanks and blessings she would pray the only selfish prayer she may have ever uttered, “Lord bring me home”. The prayer that I believe was the last one to be answered when God decided to honor her request and so he took her home to be with him and reunited with my father and grandfather. It was the culmination of a life of prayer that came from her understanding of James 5:16b, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

Monday September 16, 2013 God answered my grandmother’s last prayer but the power of her prayers will be evident for many generations. Truly Psalm 116:15 is true, “Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of those faithful to him”.

When I come to the end of my life here on Earth I hope I will die as gracefully, courageously, and with as much dignity as my Grandmother. She gave me a picture on how to live faithfully and now I know how to die faithfully. For that I am grateful. For that I say “thanks Grandma and I will see you again one day”.

Looking Forward to Heaven,
Jeremy