My grandmother Irene Waggoner died last week. She was 89 years old, and she died very quickly and very well. She was talking to my mother 45 minutes before she died, and she was ready to go and be with her Lord and Savior Jesus in heaven.
But death still sucks. I think most of us would want to draw it up just like this. She lived a full life. Her children were gathered around her when she died. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved her. She prayed for each of them by name each day. She traveled, especially after she retired. She had a particular affection for Jerusalem, for the Holy Land, for walking where Jesus walked.
But we’re still robbed of her here on this earth, here with us. Neither of my parents have living parents. That matters, even if you know it’s going to happen to you some day. It’s sad. It’s maddening. It hurts.
When I stood at the casket, I heard a few parents tell their children, “That’s not really her. She’s in heaven.” I think that’s an understandable but confusing message. Because she is here; at least – her body is here. People are created in the image of God to be bodies and souls knit and fused together. We’re aren’t supposed to be free-ranging souls hanging out disassociated with our bodies.
Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. So until then, Irene – however happy she is at the moment to be with Jesus – is awaiting the reuniting of her soul with her resurrected body, whatever that will look like in the new heavens and the new earth. It’s at that point that the traveling will be complete and all will be as it’s supposed to be.
Until then we long for the day. We sit in that real sadness. We look at a wrinkled body and wonder about the soul and how this happens, even if we’ve seen it naturally occur many times. We visit her grave and realize she’s gone and not gone. We cry. We mourn. But not without hope, for Jesus says, I am the resurrection and the life. Hope. Hope that all things will be made new – including our bodies.