Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
(Psalm 116:15 NIV)
It was on this day, one year ago, that I got in the car to drive to Birmingham with Lori and her family. I had driven to Birmingham with Lori many times before to visit Summer while she was receiving treatments and then while she was in the hospital the last couple of months.
This trip had a very different feel. No laughing or stopping for Doritos Locos tacos or Fruit and Maple oatmeal.
This time we knew we were going to say goodbye. It was time for our sister, our friend, to go Home to her Daddy. I personally had never been in a situation like that and haven't really lost anyone I was very close to and lived life with. I had no idea what to expect, what to say or how I would react.
(I'm writing this in a public coffee shop. I find I'm having to stop after every sentence to look around and distract myself so I don't burst into tears)
When we got there, Summer was not awake, so I didn't get to speak to her directly. Though I wish I could have said goodbye, I trust that I said everything I needed to say in the months and weeks prior. Honestly that moment wasn't about me at all. She didn't have a need to hear from me. It was I who felt the need to make sure she knew certain things and that I loved her.
Anyway, the next day and a half is a time I will treasure for the rest of my life. I can't fully grasp the mind of the Lord, but I feel like I tasted what it means for the death of His faithful servants to be precious.
Now, hold on...I'm not saying the fact that she left this world too soon was precious. No. That? Well...it sucks. Big time.
What I mean is that I count that time spent as the highest privilege (outside of raising my own children) I've ever had. To have been able to sit and hold her hand, to sing (I'm sorry, Summer - I'm not a good singer), to pray, to be silent and just be present is so precious to me. I had made a promise to stay with her to the end of her journey. Whether the journey ended in physical healing or in her homegoing. It was mostly a statement of friendship and loyalty, but I was literally able to be there to the end.
Charles Spurgeon said this about Psalm 116:15:
"The Lord watches over their dying beds, smooths their pillows, sustains their hearts, and receives their souls. Those who are redeemed with precious blood are so dear to God that even their deaths are precious to him."
What a sweet image of a loving God, a loving Father, caring for His child. It's what I saw taking place in the room, literally, in people caring for her and wanting to be sure she was comfortable. Sheets were smoothed, pillows adjusted and feet rubbed. And it's what I felt in the peaceful and sweet atmosphere.
(I have now vacated the coffee shop to retreat to the safety of my car)
Y'all, I don't know how to explain the mixture of sadness and joy. It's a paradox. It's indescribable but I felt it. Those hours are so special to me that I almost don't want to let you into them. It's not like I was the only person there...there were many people present. But it's a sacred thing that Jeremy and her family let me into. I am deeply grateful to them for it. I want to protect it somehow. Is that weird? Probably.
When she finally left this world there was a flood of emotion and surprisingly much of it was joy. The grief came, believe me, and it hit like a brick wall. But right then it was a precious thing to know her incredible suffering had ended and she had safely arrived home, into the presence of a loving God.
She crossed the finish line.
She crossed the finish line.
And I was there. It's probably the closest I have ever felt to the Lord. You see, this isn't the kind of precious we use to talk about a little girl in a cute outfit. It's the kind that stands at attention, that holds its breath, that's fixated on someone so valued and so special and handles her with great care. It's not the death that's precious. It's the saint.
The last year has been a roller coaster of emotion and memory, but I hold to the thought of her with Him, interceding for us, even now, just like she did in life.
And she is whole. And that is, indeed, precious.