We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
I had been visiting Alex, a gentleman in my neighborhood, for several weeks. Alex was in the end stages of advanced lung cancer with all of its accompanying discomforts.
His wife was having difficulty with the idea of him dying in their home. He wanted to stay there to die, and with all the support they had in place, it would be easy for him to do so. But he did not want to upset his wife, and she wanted him to be at peace. It was a struggle for them.
As he was getting closer to his time of dying, he began to speak with me about what was in store for him. He had been a believer all his life but now, at the end, he had questions. Had he been good enough, would his loved ones be in heaven, would they recognize them?
He spoke about the war years, about being far away for long periods of time, not always living by the golden rule. His sorrow was so genuine, and we spoke many times about how we do not earn our way into heaven, how Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us by His death on the cross.
We may know this truth very well, but when we are dying the things we have done that we know are not pleasing to God often rear their ugly heads. It is immensely comforting to be reminded that Jesus did not come for the righteous but for the sinner. Christ’s words take on a new life and meaning when spoken to the dying. Who better to hear from?
Two days before Alex’s death, he called and asked to see me. He was declining for sure but did not look at all as if his death was imminent. “Please sit down,” he said. “I have something to tell you.
“My brothers were here today, all three of them. They all served in different parts of the service. Two died during the war, but the other one lived a long life and died only recently. They all looked so young and handsome, just like they did years ago. They said that it’s time for me to come with them. They looked so radiant and happy and I think I will go with them.”
Alex died beautifully the next day after seeing his brothers and knowing they were waiting for him. He was at peace; so many of his questions were answered by their visit. How good God is to allow His children to receive all the comforts He knows will bring them peace, each receiving exactly what he or she needs to be able to die unafraid.
Alex’s wife was able, in the end, to be with him at home when he died and where he wished to be.