Mar 30, 2010

The Gift of Death

One year ago yesterday, my grandmother and the matriarch of our family, Alice McGahey, went home to heaven. I don't say that she went to heaven flippantly. I do not say she went to heaven just because she was a good person, which she was. Most everyone I know believes that the people that they loved so much on earth are in heaven. Most of the time this is based on the goodness they saw in the person. However, goodness does not get you into heaven, grace does. I know my grandmother is in heaven because she lived a life of grace. She loved the Lord Jesus. She loved to read about him in the Bible. She loved to hear good preaching about him. She loved to sing about him when she played her organ. My grandmother was the closest thing to a saint I have ever met this side of heaven.

However, my grandmother, just like everyone else on earth, had a sickness. She inherited a deadly virus at birth that affected her for many years. It came through the bloodline to her ancestors Adam and Eve. That virus is called sin. I don't know when my grandmother first became fully aware of her sin virus. However, like everyone else, her only cure was the grace poured out on Calvary by Jesus. My grandmother embraced that cross and received forgiveness for her sin.

We called her Mama Alice. My grandfather was Daddy Bert. They were two of the biggest influences on my life. Daddy Bert was a pilot in WWII and loved to fly. He took me to play golf the first time. He was a quiet man, but loved his grandsons. Mama Alice was a hard worker. For many years she sold Amway. Dozens of people knew her from that. Later on, she went to work at a jewelry store in the mall. She worked many nights until 9:00 PM and didn't get home till late. She was the best cook I have ever known. She first taught me that scrambled eggs taste better with cheese. She made a Chicken Casserole that tasted like manna from heaven. She knew how to make the most tender roast beef I ever tasted. And Thanksgiving was a celebration and feast like none other. Nothing in the world could compare to her cornbread dressing.

My grandfather died almost 20 years ago. After that, my grandmother continued to be the centerpiece of our family although she lost her soul-mate. Mama Alice had always been a frail lady, prone to bruising easily. The fingers on her hands began to twist up from arthritis. In her later years, she had to go on a full-time oxygen tube and her mobility was much more limited. She had a hard time keeping her weight up. She became dependent on others to bathe her and help her get dressed. Eventually, we had to make the difficult decision to put her in a nursing home. However, she never lost her sass or her determination to live. She continued to give it to me when I would come home and I continued to give it right back to her. As she lay in the hospital in her last days, she said to me "Don't stand over me." I replied, "I drove here from Birmingham and I will stand wherever I want." She didn't want people to fuss over her until the end.

On March 29, 2009, God gave my Mama Alice and our family a great gift when in his mercy he healed her suffering by taking her to her heavenly home. Death was a welcome gift for us. It was great comfort to see her no longer suffering in the fleshy tent that she occupied. There was no doubt in any of us that her body had been deserted and she was home with her Savior. The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15) God has given us a gracious doorway from the sin and stain of this world. God has given us a pathway that is free from cancer, oxygen tubes, disease, and suffering. However, that path is not on this side of eternity.

The doorway of death has two destinations. One is eternally free from suffering and sin and leads to the presence of the father. The other destination is infinite increase in suffering and torment. Both are eternal destinies from which there is no going back. Once you step through the doorway of death, your ticket is punched and there is no turning back. The question is, which destiny will your door lead? Good intentions, good works, really liking Jesus will not suffice. One day many years ago Alice McGahey looked upon a blood-soaked, sin-bearing, carpenter from Galilee and placed her complete faith in him to pay her sin ransom. Have you?