Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Hope of Heaven

It's been such a good weekend.

It's been a time filled with sorrow and grief, but also filled with laughter, joy, family, friends, food, memories, appreciation and gratitude for a life well and fully lived. My mother-in-law touched so many people.

In recent years, she had begun reading books on heaven. I remember her recounting ideas that had amazed her in Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. She read a number of books on the subject and she would pass them on to us, along with many other books, as she always did--and which we rarely got around to reading. But I know these books helped prepare her, and gave her a peace that passed our understanding.

At the funeral, probably the most moving moment was the offertory, when an old recording was played. It was my mother-in-law, back in the 1970's, when her dramatic soprano voice was at its peak. She sang "Finally Home" by Don Wyrtzen:

Just think of stepping on shore...and finding it Heaven,
Of touching a hand...and finding it God's,
Of breathing new air...and finding it celestial,
Of waking up in Glory...and finding it Home.

She also spoke--a younger voice than I had ever known--inviting the audience to give their lives to Christ and secure their own hope of heaven and of an eternal life with Him. Then she resumed the chorus.  Each time she hit that high note on "Glory," the recording equipment couldn't handle it and there were hisses and crackles, but the note itself was so pure and free, with a glory of its own--what a voice! What an amazing woman.

And what an amazing God, who made sure that her family had that recording to play at her funeral. It was from the time after she retired from show business, but missed singing. A prayer partner of hers was a pianist, and together they selected some worship songs to learn. They took their little show on the road, performing in churches on Sunday or Wednesday nights, sharing their testimonies. My father-in-law would often join them and sing too, and in one recording we have, they asked their two sons who were with them to stand up--my husband and his brother, who were young teens or tweens then.

My mother-in-law very occasionally wrote poetry, not as a regular thing at all, and when she did, she was usually adamant that God gave her the poem. She left us a number of beautiful verses, and we used this one on the back of her funeral service bulletin. It illustrates so beautifully her hope of heaven:

Flower Song

You peonies from my neighbor's garden,
How jealous of her I should be
Had she not, in generous spirit
Bestowed your pinkness on me.

Here; on dining table you explode
Such color and in wondrous fragrance you unload
Much joy and brightness!

Oh Lord of glory, God of all,
In this sweet flower help me to see the autumn
When cold does come and freeze away
The warmth and brightness of this day.

Prepare me Lord and hold me steady
So when winter comes, I will trust and stand ready
To enter into eternal summer
Where such grand flowers will be but one small feature
And on new earth
I am your complete creature
Made fragrant in You.

(Do not reprint without permission.)

These verses--we read the whole passage from 1 Corinthians 15--also reminded us of the reality that she so greatly anticipated:

But someone will ask, d“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! eWhat you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 fSo is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.43 It is sown in dishonor; git is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. 
...I tell you this, brothers: qflesh and blood rcannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. sWe shall not all sleep, tbut we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For uthe trumpet will sound, andvthe dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and wthis mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

x“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 y“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

My mother-in-law loved earthly bodies. She had a compliment for everyone, even total strangers, and all who knew her had a story of an unforgettable compliment she had bestowed upon them.  The first time we spoke, over the phone, she told me I had "a well-modulated voice."  The rector who performed the sermon shared with us the time she complimented him on his cheeks, sure that he must use rouge to get them so rosy, and confessing that she'd really like to kiss them, if his wife would understand! On Facebook, one of our friends commented, when he heard the news of her passing, "What a sweet wonderful hilarious woman she is. No doubt, she is telling Jesus how beautiful His hair is, at His age!" She used to urge Blondechick and I to wear short skirts to show off our legs.  "I used to have great legs, you know," she would say--and when we went through the old pictures, especially the showbiz ones, we saw that she was not exaggerating!

She loved these earthly bodies and had a beautiful one herself. Her face had a timeless beauty that aged well and handsomely, but she occasionally lamented the toll that age had placed upon her looks. I can't help but think about her spiritual body, and how her earthly body was just a seed compared to the glory of her immortal, imperishable body. How she must delight in it! Will she continue to admire the bodies--the spiritual bodies--of those around her? I can just imagine it!

Someday we will join her there and see for ourselves. What a blessed hope we have together in Christ!


Anonymous said...

Jeanne: I really like the Flower Song. Thank you for posting it. Am praying for you all. In Christ, Matt

Anonymous said...

A beautiful posting--it reflected Benita so well. Thanks for the poem; it was just beautiful. Love, Pianomum