On Monday, our last day together as a family, my dad read aloud a list of 10 things he was thankful for in the midst of this hard time. We were all touched by not only the 10 things–as he was so very right to be grateful for these mercies–but were also touched by the condition of his heart. He has made a deliberate, daily decision to trust Christ even in this achingly painful time, even to the point of being thankful and joyful in the midst of sorrow.
After the Bible study, I asked if he would write up his list for me so that I could share it on my blog. Here it is for you today.
Each of you has been much on my heart. In spite of all our questions, we do not and cannot know why the Lord called Booie home. When we walk through issues like this that we cannot understand, let me encourage each of us to respond by faith and intentionally choose to trust the Lord with these “secret things” that he talks about in Deuteronomy 29.29. We cling to the revealed things, such things which are clearly spoken to us in his word for our comfort. He is holy (1 John 1.5), he is loving towards his children (Romans 5.8) and he is in control and governs all things and, even when we might make mistakes, his sovereign and absolute rule is certain and secure (Daniel 4.35 and Psalm 139).
Because the Lord chose to take Booie home, hard as that is to fathom, I am greatly comforted by the following:
1. Julia did not die in sin. She clearly confessed Jesus as her Lord and Savior and there was no doubt that she was forgiven by Jesus and saved by the final and finished work of Jesus Christ. She had been baptized at Grace Church and publicly confessed her faith in Jesus. Romans 10.9 says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” She knew she was forgiven; she wrote in her Bible these words “How can I refuse to forgive when I am a forgiven sinner myself?” Praise God Julia is now with Jesus.
2. No one else was injured. Our mourning and pain would be much deeper and more severe if, in the crash, other lives would have been taken. While our pain is immense at the loss of Julia, we are thankful that no other family members or friends were injured in her vehicle and no other motorists were involved.
3. We are grateful for the kind care of the Christian man who comforted Julia. As the man stood between the tree and Julia, he comforted her and said over and over “I am right here; I will not leave you.” (See Hebrews 13.5 and Joshua 1.5) Booie visibly relaxed as he kept his hand tenderly on her left shoulder. How kind that she was not alone; the Lord sent a man who knows Jesus Christ to comfort her in her final moments.
4. Julia’s body awaits the resurrection. We are thankful Julia was not lost at sea or in an airplane accident. Her ‘earthly tent’ is buried near us, less than a ten minute walk away. She will be buried next to Momma and Daddy where we will all await the glorious time when Jesus calls our name, gives us new heavenly bodies, and ushers us into his new heaven and new earth. Until then, Julia is in a conscious state where she is present with Jesus and his saints; she has no more questions and the Bible is clear that where she is now is much better than being here (Philippians 1.23). Like us, Julia and her friends await the glorious day when she will be clothed with the immortal heavenly body (2 Corinthians 5:1-8). Although we miss Booie so much it hurts, we are comforted in knowing she is wrapped up in the joy of Jesus and that we will meet her again.
5. Julia loved and knew she was loved. In our family, we loved Julia without reservation. She loved us back. Every morning Booie got up, she knew that every person in her family loved her unconditionally. There were no outstanding things to be resolved. Not only did she know she was loved by each of us, she also knew that we knew how much she loved us. Each one of us is blessed because we experienced Julia’s love for each one of us and that we had the privilege of loving her.
6. Julia knew the joy of her salvation. Often, as a father, I have encouraged each of you children to ‘know the joy of your salvation.’ Julia knew that joy! Her love for Christ was infectious; she had, as a friend put it, an ‘invitational life.’ She would often ask her friend, Renee, “What do we do about our friends who do not know Christ?” Julia had walked through some very dark and discouraging times, particularly during her time in Poland. But the Lord walked with her through that shadowland and brought her into the light and joy of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Her life radiated this joy; many of the verses she highlighted in her Bible are about going through trials; she knew that God showered his love on her not by isolating Julia from difficult times but by teaching her to trust Jesus in those difficult trials he brings for our good. (Romans 8.28), even when we cannot possibly understand. She chose as her life verse the reminder that our present trials should not be compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven (Romans 8.18). She knew this joy here on earth, and now she is experiencing it in heaven.
7. As a family, we rejoiced at her funeral and her memorial service. Yes, it was a level of grief and pain we were quite unfamiliar with previous to Boo’s homegoing. We did not choose this shadow. But in the midst of this deep gulf of sorrow, we are experiencing a peace that surpasses our understanding. From the very first moment Eric told Momma and me, I had a peace that Julia is with Jesus. How much deeper our pain would have been if we could not have rejoiced at her funeral and memorial service that she is in heaven.
8. We drew strength as a family. When we look back, we will marvel at God’s grace to us in our family during this time. In our grief, our love for one another deepened. Usually we travel together, but this time Julia went on ahead of us. And because we could not go with Boo on this journey, we sat together and wept and hugged one another. How very grateful I am that each of you knows the love and forgiveness of Christ and that we could reach out to one another in our dark sorrow and be comforted. Each touch, each hug, each look communicated to your Daddy how much you loved me and how much you, like me, miss our Booie. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything and this was our time to weep, our time to mourn, our time to embrace, our time to keep silent, our time to lose and say goodbye to our precious Booie. How sweet that we experienced this as a family who knows the deep, deep love of Jesus.
9. Two Great Books. We are a family who reads; it is in the fabric of our family. And this week good friends at the Center for Christian Study, above all the other fantastic support they gave us, also gave us a great book on grieving: A Lament for a Son. The other book that many recommended, and even sent to us, is the wonderful volume titled A Grace Disguised. Other excellent pieces from RC Sproul (“A Hard Providence”), Calvin’s Institutes, and Berkhoff’s Systematic Theology encouraged us but these two books spoke to our weary, broken hearts like nothing else could do. Let us continue to read and re-read these wonderful gifts from those who went before us and wrote wonderfully about this hard and severe bench of mourning.
10. The Support of Friends and Family. Our extended family rallied around us. Our friends took us in their arms and loved us hour by hour. Our church wept and prayed for us; a church near our house opened its doors to us to accommodate the many people who wanted to say goodbye to Booie. We felt their love and care; now we continue to be encouraged because it appears that they are not going away soon! Friends flew in from overseas, friends called and wrote in new media and old to tell us that they loved us and are praying for us. People we may never meet wrote to say they were praying for us. While no words can heal such wounds, the loving care of our family and friends soothes the hurts and begins this long slow process of healing.
So my dear family, be encouraged. We are called to this time of walking in the shadows. Death is the enemy; it will one day be banished forever when even death submits finally and completely to the majesty of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-56) Until then, in this valley, we remember we have a Savior who suffered, who is well acquainted with our grief and who took all our ultimate suffering on Himself that we might have eternal life (Isaiah 53). Rejoice in the midst of your sorrow.
The One who will never leave us or forsake us tells us clearly from this verse that Booie highlighted in her Bible:
And Boo’s life verse from Romans 8.18 continues to echo in our sad hearts, even as we experience the first portion and she the second:
Faint not, dear ones. Let us rest in our good God.