3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
Being raised Catholic, I remember attending Stations of the Cross every Good Friday. It was a solemn day. A day we remembered what our Lord had gone through FOR us. I clearly remember the feeling I would get walking into the church; the holy water fonts, empty. Seeing the tabernacle open, dark and empty. It was a beautiful symbolism of the death of Christ. The church building was empty and dark...Not to be lit again until the Light of the World would be raised up on the third day!
As an adult, I have learned that there is even a deeper meaning to God's saving grace. Perhaps attaining a better understanding of how Jesus' Resurrection affects MY life.
It is one thing to be TAUGHT what the Resurrection of Jesus means. It is, however, a whole new kind of wonderful thing to EXPERIENCE what the Resurrection means. It's my hope to share with you what Easter means to me, now that I have had such an amazing experience!
As many of you know, my dad passed away this past November. We knew he was sick after having multiple strokes combined with several other health issues that seemed to ravage his body during the last year. But we didn't know that he would be going home quite so soon. I was there at the end...or should I say at the beginning? I was there, and I witnessed his entrance into eternity.
Have you ever seen a baby being born? Have you ever seen a baby take his first breath? Life. Day one. It's a beautiful experience. One that ties you to that child with an unseeable bond. You witnessed his entrance into this world. Amazing!
That's sort of how it feels when you witness someone leaving this world and entering into a new life. A new existance. It is truly a rebirth. For those of us who know Jesus, it is miraculous...because scripture is VALIDATED. Death has no victory!
During my father's last day on this earth my mother and I were given the gift of being by his side. I reached his bedside, at the nursing home, at 9:30AM to find him gasping for breath. To tell you that sound was almost unbearable would be an understatement! His respirations were labored as his lungs were filling with fluid, and his heart was beating upwards of 160 beats per minute. His body was dying. He was "transitioning" into the next phase of LIFE, the eternal phase. But hold the phone! This was my dad!! My big, strong, mountain of a man...dad. He saw me come into this world, and as the Lord willed it, I was seeing him leave it. Intensely surreal!
During that day, mom and I took turns whispering in his ear that it was ok to leave. We reminded him of the beautiful place by the waters that Jesus had prepared for him.(Dad had always said he hoped Jesus would let him live by the Heavenly shores). His arms and legs would once again work, and he would be strong and healthy! "Go home, dad." "We'll be ok. We love you." "We'll see you again, soon." "Take Jesus' hand, and be at peace."
Four months later, I honestly can't believe the strength we had at uttering such words. But that strength was there, amazingly.
It was a long day, that Friday. How does one comprehend the knowledge that "today" your father (mother, wife, husband, child...) is GOING to die? I'm still not sure. Our emotions were a mixture of wanting his suffering to end and not wanting to say goodbye, all rolled into one. Mom and I waited, and stood by his side for hours. Rubbing his legs, his head and hands. Whispering, touching, praying...
When 6:30 PM approached, dad's breathing got slower. A sign that the time was near. Mom on his left and I on his right held him. His breathing stopped for 20seconds! Was this it? Was he gone? NO!! He stared breathing again. But his respirations were very shallow at this point. Dad was almost ready to make his journey.
I wondered what he saw, with his earthly eyes closed, I knew his spiritual eyes may be witnessing something beautiful waiting for him. Perhaps something across a stream. Was he just that close to Jesus!? Did he see his mother? His brother? Maybe he saw my little baby, who I lost several years back? Was she calling her Papa home?
Dad's mouth had been shut tight all day. To the point where mom was saying, he's not ready to let go of his spirit. I found that funny, but I will tell you, that man clinched his mouth shut, TIGHTLY if anyone came near to him. He even bit a nurse who tried to get his dentures out early in the day. Dad was unconscious, and heavily medicated, but he still had a pretty strong will!
His breathing was slowing. It was time. Mom and I had him in our arms, and this time his breaths slowed easily, and then his sweet mouth opened as he exhaled his last breath. His spirit left his body! He made it home!
I didn't see anything with earthly eyes, but I felt as though dad's spirit flew right past me! Up, up, up. I could imagine him turning back once more to see us, and giving us a thumbs up. His way of telling us he was GOOD! He was finally out of that old shell of a body, and FREE! That's what I kept saying, in fact. "Dad, you are finally FREE!"
Now here is the part that may be upsetting for some. We knew dad was gone. His spirit has flown away...no doubt in my mind or heart. But it was AFTER that occurrence that his body died. I won't go into medical details, but just know death is not pretty. It's messy and difficult to watch. BUT DAD'S SPIRIT WAS GONE!!! His hands almost immediately started turning black. His skin became cold and hard very soon. For some reason dad looked tiny in his bed. His largeness was gone. It's something we can't explain, but he looked like half the man he was, now lying in that bed! When the dying process was still happening, the nurse raised him in bed for me to help clean him. It was at this time my father's eyes opened for the first time all day! He was gone by this point. But his eyes were looking UP! They weren't rolled back or looking straight ahead, as one would imagine from someone who was in a supine position for over 24 hours...NO! They were looking up to the corner of the room. He had seen something, and that was the direction he went. I'm sure of it!
O Death where is thy sting?? Yes!!
I am here to tell you that YES, I witnessed HOW Jesus conquered death. How he took the hand of my father and whisked him away, moments before the "sting of death" occured!
Our hope that we can only find in Jesus is REAL. It is not something made up. It is no longer something that is intangible. I saw it. I was blessed to witness an Easter moment, that as Christians, we all will get to experience. Rising to meet our Savior. Alive with Him for eternity!
If you know Jesus, you have nothing to fear. I promise you. He has prepared a beautiful place for you. He has WON our victory over the grave!
My prayer for you is that this Easter will be one of rebirth through Him. That you are reminded that Easter is the very heart of our faith! That through His death and resurrection we have all our sins washed away and hope in life eternal!
Happy Easter~ May God bless you, abundantly!