I have been afraid of death for as long as I can remember. In some seasons of life, that fear felt absolutely debilitating. In August 2013, I was baptized in the kiddie pool on the stage at Highlands Church by my husband, Scott. I decided to take the plunge after a long, intentional journey of digging into scripture, praying, and reading lots of books to work through my fear of death. I really had turned a corner and experienced some healing.
Verses like Hebrews 2:14-15 really helped. “…[Jesus]…shared in their humanity so that by his death he might…free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” I’m not the only one? Jesus wanted to do that through the cross? Wow.
I purchased a necklace with three crosses to commemorate my baptism at Highlands, in remembrance of Luke 23:42-43. The criminal being crucified next to Jesus was also scared of death. Jesus told him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” What an amazingly simple answer without any fancy theological explanations! Just assurance – that very day he would be with Jesus in paradise. Phew.
Alzheimers is a cruel disease, and feels even more so when it strikes someone like my uncle. Hob was an avid athlete, an expert chef, an all around nice guy, and my dad’s baby brother. Despite all of that, Alzheimers took root when he was only 52.
My Uncle Hob struggled with Alzheimers for seven years. Earlier this summer, I was warned that he was failing more rapidly. It’s been a few years since I’ve dealt with the death of a friend or relative, so I was bracing myself for how I would cope, even though I knew I was in a significantly different place than before I was baptized.
It was a Friday afternoon at work and I was in the middle of a rehearsal with one of my high school students. We were preparing to perform the dramatic “Time to Say Goodbye” for graduation – she on French Horn, and me accompanying on piano. We were rehearsing in a practice room when I saw my mom’s number pop up on my phone. My stomach dropped – I knew it was probably an update about Uncle Hob, but I declined the call and kept playing. A few minutes later as I continued to play, I got a text from my mom and glanced at it: “We are just calling to tell you that Hob died at 2:52pm today…” The tears started flowing freely, and I kept playing.
Oh the tender mercies of God! It felt like such a tribute to be playing those soaring melodies and dramatic arpeggios during my uncle’s last moments on Earth. God let me grieve and process through what Pastor Mark once called my “heart language” of music. It felt like a sweet release.
It also gave me the opportunity to be real with my student. After we finished the final chord, I turned to her (all red and puffy) and shared what that phone call and text were about. I thanked her for choosing this particular piece and playing it so beautifully, not only for graduation in a few days, but as a farewell song for my uncle. This student is a tough one – and sometimes won’t even grant me a smile in greeting, but in that moment, she offered me a big hug.
Oh the tender mercies of God.