Last night I said good-bye to my neighbor for the last time. I hadn’t wanted to go to Haven Hospice. Don’t like the scent of death that lingers there beneath the gorgeous new building with its beautiful furnishings and loving nurses.
Sitting in my driveway, I semi-pleaded with God to let me off the hook. It was past 9:30, I was just arriving home from a season of prayer with my vigilant sisters in the Mercy Support Services Prayer Room, warring sisters on their knees. We had just prayed for my neighbor. Called her name before our loving Heavenly Father. Asked Him to give her comfort and peace as she closes her eyes for the last time on earth. Asking the Holy Spirit to draw her heart to the heart of God so that His goodness would give her the courage to believe that He exists. Begging for her leap of faith. Asking Him to move mountains in the last moments of her life.
I thought about those mountains, believing the Bible that says it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move them. But what could happen in 51 years that would cause a person to build a mountain of denial toward the existence of a loving God? What layers of pain and hurt can build a barrier between a person and their Creator? What opportunities have I, who call myself “Christian,” had to show Christ to my neighbor? Did she see something, anything, in me that ever made her wonder about the God I serve, as for almost four years now, I’ve dragged my trash to the curb and parked my car across from hers and waved as I chased my daily exercise around the block?
Giving in to God, I backed out of our driveway and headed toward Haven Hospice. It was 9:54 when I arrived to an empty parking lot and a locked front door. Still, I got in. Visiting hours are flexible in hospice, where time seems to stand perfectly still. Pushing open the door to her room, I discovered her loved ones surrounding her there. Four precious women, holding her until the very end. The room was quiet and darkened as my neighbor fought death. “We thought she would let go earlier, but she’s still clinging desperately to life,” one of them said. It made me think, as I watched her lying there, breathing with her whole chest. Am I clinging to LIFE like that? Jesus says that He is The WAY, The TRUTH, and The LIFE. Do I cling to Him with every breath? When everything else is gone and not one thing matters in this life but my relationship with Him, am I willing to hold on to that with every cell in my being?
I held her hand. Told her that I wanted to see her again. Be neighbors in heaven. I shared that God’s love for her is an everlasting love. That He carefully formed her in her mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and that He loved her before she ever took her first breath and would continue to love her after she breathed her last. I shared Revelation 3:20 almost as a prayer, “ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock…” I invited her to choose Jesus, the Door of salvation. I kissed her on the forehead. I said, “Goodbye.” Then I got into my car and wept with hope.
Today she may breathe her last breath. She held on through the night. I heard it from her loved ones. I do not know what she decided to do with the mountain of unbelief held up by a lifetime of hurt or ambivalence or oblivion, or whatever. I just pray to my Jesus that He breaks through all barriers, that His love plants just one mustard seed in her heart and that she will choose to water that seed with a drop of faith. That’s all it takes to move a mountain.
Today would have been my cousin Casey’s birthday. He died as the pilot in a small plane crash in 2010, at an age too tender to fathom. No one was prepared for the shock. And every year on the anniversaries of Casey’s birth and death, we who loved him come together on social media and mourn; a little community of hearts with a Casey-shaped hole in them. As I reflect today on death, I remember that my husband calls it the “culmination of our faith.”
In my heart, I choose to believe in a loving God who knows our mustard seeds. Who has witnessed the tragedies of our lives. Who has loved us since before time began. Who paid the price for our foolishness with the blood of His own Son, and who gives each person every opportunity to choose Him. Whether it’s choosing Him daily for a lifetime, or choosing Him in the last seconds before our plane hits the unforgiving Texas soil or in our last moments of coherency before Cancer and the medication that fights it causes us to succumb to the thing we’ve been fighting for years, that ONE choice stands for eternity. It counts. Believe that with me tonight and regardless of the ache that death has created in our souls, together we can shout, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”1 Corinthians 15:55-56 (KJV). Rest in peace, my neighbor. Rest in peace, my cousin. Your Savior saw your mustard seed.