Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Worst Day of His Life

The day started as normally as any other day. Kevin woke up at 4:00 Friday morning to prepare for a full day’s work. He dragged around the small bungalow that he and his seventeen year old wife shared. He was only eighteen himself and had been married only six months.

Being married at such a young age was not unusual in either of their families. That was just the way that it was done in their culture. Anyway, they had both lived fast lives. That, too, was the norm in their culture. This culture was one in which, when speaking of one’s husband or wife, one refers to the other as, “My old man “ or “My old lady”, respectively without any of the parties feeling an insult. A bad explanation is one that is followed by the phrase, “That dog won’t hunt”, because everybody in those parts hunt and knows that any dog that won’t hunt is utterly worthless. It is a culture with big families, young marriages and people who live fast lives.

Kevin was always dragging on Friday mornings: the effect of hard, physical labor for a full week in the logging woods of Alabama. Logging didn’t require a lot of education or skill, but there weren’t many jobs waiting for an eighteen year old.

After he dressed in his camouflage pants and t-shirt, he drifted into the kitchen, started up the coffee pot,scrambled four eggs and made toast. While the toast was finishing up, he made his sack lunch. After eating breakfast, he rolled his last joint. He would be able to buy a new bag this afternoon after getting paid. He went into the bedroom, kissed his young bride, and then walked outside onto the front porch where he was immediately inundated with the smell of the cool, night air. He loved the smell of the pine trees in the air during the early morning hours. Never having lived anywhere else, Kevin didn’t realize that it was the pine that provided the familiar scent. It had never occurred to him that this smell wasn’t common everywhere. Pine and pot were his favorite scents.

As he got into his car, he looked up and admired the full moon and stars. He had grown accustomed to driving to work before dawn, and never encountered much traffic. He put in the CD from Lynyrd Skynyrd and listened to Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. When he arrived at work, several of his friends were already waiting for him. Soon, they would load up into the work trucks that would carry them on top of the red dirt roads out to the worksite in the deep piney woods. During the ride, they would observe the beautiful sunrise through the haze of cigarette smoke. Then, the peaceful atmosphere of the morning would be broken as the heavy logging equipment was started.

After a full day's work, he went to cash his paycheck. He would stop by Skip’s house to get a full bag of pot and then meet his buddies for an after work buzz. Where they went to go drinking, nobody knows for sure; except them, of course.

The sun was high up in the sky when Kevin went home to his beautiful wife. Her name was Dawn. She was thin and blonde, with an easy smile and a good disposition. Coming home drunk didn't bode well for his marriage. He and his young bride soon broke into an argument. That was not unusual. Young love tended to lean in that direction. She was most likely mad that he came home drunk. And booze was probably not all that he had been doing. Not only had he come home drunk, but she had been stuck at the house alone all day because between the two of them, they owned only one car. This also is not unusual for a young married couple just starting out.

She couldn’t ride into town with a neighbor because they lived in a little bungalow in the county. The nearest house was at least a mile away. But the bad is accompanied by the good. They had plenty of privacy out in the country, the deer were plentiful and there were no neighbors to hear their frequent arguments.

The argument continued to the edge of violence when Kevin threatened to shoot Dawn with a rifle. She wasted no time leaving the house for her own safety. On her way out the door, with tears running down her face, Dawn informed Kevin that she was ready for a divorce. As she ran to their only car, she noticed that the sun was slowly being covered by puffy, white clouds, forming shadows on the green grass.

Then, she took their only car, and went home to her parent's house. She poured out her story to her parents, explaining to them that she was through with him for good.

Now, Kevin was home alone, drunk, upset, and soon to be divorced. He had nowhere to go and no way to get there. For the first time in his eighteen years, he had found happiness when he had gotten married and now it was over. She had been the only stability that he had had in a long time. He liked being married, having a home of his own. This was the worst thing that had ever happened to him in his eighteen year life. His buddies were nowhere to be found as he plummeted into darkness. The appealing quality of the bungalow now had a sinister effect. No longer was it a haven for new lovers, but now had become a symbol of isolation and loneliness that he could not endure. He had felt this loneliness most of his life. It had begun as a gnawing fear when he was small, overhearing the bitter arguing of his parents, and had become a permanent fixture in his life as soon as they had gotten divorced when he was eight years old.

Angry, confused, crying, disappointed and heartbroken, Kevin drifted into the worst, darkness of his life. Was this all that life had to offer? This kind of heartache, one time after another, and another and another? He felt like such a failure. He picked his rifle back up. He would show her. He would show them all.

He called her parents house, hoping that she would answer the phone. She had to be there. Where else would she go? She was there all right. But her mom wouldn't notify her that she had a phone call. She told him that he needed to leave Dawn alone. Kevin responded by placing his rifle into his mouth and telling Dawn's mother that he planned to kill himself. He said that he had just called to tell his wife goodbye.

Dawn's mother Nancy could hear that something was in his mouth. She knew it because it was affecting his speech. She also knew that he was drunk and probably high too.She knew that there was no telling what kind of drugs were in his system, because that was the norm for their culture too. When Kevin told Nancy that he had a rifle in his mouth, Nancy knew that he was telling the truth. This was a dangerous situation that would require calm, firm guidance. She knew that this was most likely the same gun that had been pulled on her daughter. She was concerned, but first and foremost for Dawn.

Nancy told Kevin that he needed to call his own mother and tell her what he was going to do. His mother was the one that he needed right now. She told him to hang up and call her.

Man, that wasn't the response that he expected. He expected to get to talk to Dawn--to tell her that he was going to kill himself. He wanted her to tell him not to because she loved him. This is what he wanted and expected to hear, just like in the movies. He definitely didn't expect to be told to hang up and call his mother.

Like a robot, he followed Nancy's advice. He was broken and could not think clearly for himself. Hopefully, when he called his mom, they would talk it out, and things would end peacefully. He called and got the answering machine. The answering machine?!!! With the gun in his mouth, Kevin told the answering machine that he was about to kill himself and just called to say goodbye to his mama. Then he hung up.

His wife had left him in the only vehicle that they owned, his mother-in-law didn't want to listen when he called to tell her that he wanted to kill himself, his wife wouldn't come to the phone and his mother was unavailable for him to tell that he was planning to die. This day had turned into a living nightmare. He felt like the most unloved person on the face of the earth.

Life is fleeting, characterized by many ironies. One is that people can spend years working toward a single goal before it is achieved. But five minutes or even one second can undo years of work. Not only can one second change the entire future of a person, but this also affects the lives of others: groups, families, towns, nations and even the entire world. This can work for the negative or the positive.

Kevin called his dad. By this time, he was crying again. With the gun in his mouth, he told his father that he was about to kill himself, and he just wanted to call him to tell him goodbye. His father screamed, "Kevin, No!!!!

Boom! With a singular pull of the trigger, the worst day of Kevin's life was over forever…..

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Full Armor of God


Father God, we praise your name for all that you have done for us in the past, present and future. I ask that you give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:15-19 (revised by me)).
In the name of your precious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

I want begin by telling you a little about me. I grew up in South Alabama, where I attended, was confirmed and baptized at the First United Methodist Church. I worked there at the age of 16 as the Chancel Choir Director. The next year, I worked at Blue Lake Methodist Church camp in Andalusia, Alabama. I went to work at various jobs, during which time, I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Troy University. I got married, had 3 children and then divorced. I moved to Texas 3 years ago, whereupon I immediately joined Buda United Methodist Church. Since then I have served as an usher, a liturgist, a choir member, a member of the Evangelism Committee and the Recording Secretary for the Administrative Council at BUMC. I became a Certified Lay Speaker in May of 2010 and began serving on the Austin District Board of Lay Speaking at the same time. I also serve on the Hays Praise Emmaus board, the Greater Austin Emmaus Board, the Lay Director of the Austin/Crossroads District Chrysalis board and the Secretary and Executive Committee member of the Southwest Texas Conference Chrysalis board.

As a friend of mine once said, it has taken me a long time to learn not to make eye contact with the person approaching me with pen and clipboard in hand.

Old Testament Reading: Proverbs 20:18 Make plans by seeking advice, if you wage war, obtain guidance.

New Testament Reading: Ephesians, Chapter 6, v. 10-18

I mentioned that I had served as a camp counselor at a Methodist Church camp at the age of 17. After that, I entered into college, and gradually fell away from the church, as many college students do. I refer to this period as my period of wandering in the wilderness. I would stay in the wilderness for a long period of time. Not until after the birth of my first son did I return to the church. The reason that I returned was a desire to raise my children properly: with a foundation upon God.

When I returned, I did so with a hunger for the word of God. I wanted to deepen my spiritual understanding.

During this period, I ran into a challenge. This challenge came in the form of a conflict with a family member, who shall remain anonymous.
I am thankful to tell you today that I don’t remember the reason for the disagreement. But I do remember the frustration and anger.

And it was only a small conflict because, in spite of my great anger, I kept my mouth shut to her about the matter. Instead, I had decided to try to take the Christian approach to this difficulty. I wanted to behave as Christ would have me to behave. And I have to confess that it was difficult. But I was determined. I had heard that all of the answers to life’s problems are found in the Bible, so I decided to go to my Bible to find the solution: that unique thing or things that I needed to withstand this trial in such a way that would be pleasing to God. And hopefully, I would not have to compromise anything that I cared deeply about. Being out of fellowship for many years, meant that I could not pick up my Bible and go straight to the scripture that I needed. It meant that I would have to search. So search I did, because I was determined. And I searched, and searched. When finally, I found the important scripture that would become a turning point in my faith.

I found this in Ephesians, Chapter 6, verse 10-18.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

I was amazed! This is just what I was looking for!

First, I was told to be strong in the Lord. I was trying.
Second, I was being told that the devil has schemes that he will use against me, and for which I can be prepared with the following weapons:

1. Belt of truth. This is the word of Jesus Christ. John 14:6 tells us that “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

John 14:16 -17 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

2. Breastplate of righteousness: Righteousness means right standing with God. How do we do this? We have to be sinless. This is impossible for us. So, we can be released from the spiritual death of sin through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The blood that he shed on the cross provides the atonement for our sins and only through the acceptance of him do we receive this atonement. Only in atonement do we receive right standing with God. So our righteousness is not of our own doing, but through grace; through Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. Feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Gospel means good news and/or God-story.

4. Shield of faith-Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is when we know, that we know, that we know, that we know that we know.

5. Helmet of salvation- Salvation is being saved from sin or receiving a way to keep sin from ruling us: There is only one way to salvation and that is Jesus Christ.

6. The sword of the spirit-This is the word of God. John 1:1-2

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

This refers to Jesus Christ. He is the word.

This also refers to the Bible. We need to read our Bibles to provide a sword of the spirit, or ammunition and weapons.

7. Prayer-Pray always for all of the saints. This is our conversation with God. Hopefully, it occurs daily, hourly, and/ or minute by minute.

First Thessalonians 5:17-18 tells us to “pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (combination of different versions of the Bible)

I have found that a lot of pastors do not like the subject of spiritual warfare. I hear many different reasons given for this. One reason that they give is that they don’t want to glorify the devil. They don’t want to dwell on the negative. They would rather focus on the love of God. And some will even go as far as to say that they don’t believe in a devil or evil spirits or spiritual warfare. It is because of the goodness and love of God that I am able to address this issue.

Interestingly, I have heard some Methodist pastors say that they don’t believe in a devil that wages war against us. I have gently reminded them that when we joined the church, we had to answer a series of questions. One was a question of whether we renounce evil. If you answer yes to that question and a few others and ask to be admitted to membership, you are admitted. If you renounce something, you are also declaring your belief in it, for we can not renounce that in which we do not believe.

I said earlier that we had moved to Texas over 3 years ago and immediately afterwards, I joined BUMC. A couple of weeks later, I sent my oldest son on a mission trip with the youth group, which was kind of mean of me, because he didn’t know anybody at the time. He learned a lot on that mission trip. One of the main things that he learned was how to text. He came home texting like crazy. I remember thinking, “that wasn’t exactly what I wanted you to learn when I sent you on a mission trip”.

I heard a devotional one time encouraging us to pray with the frequency with which teenagers text. They are continuously talking to each other all day through texting. If we were to pray like our teenagers text, we would have a relationship with God that is beyond our imagination.

I mentioned that I had learned three things from this scripture. I already addressed the first two things. The third thing that I learned from this scripture is that it is OK to get frustrated. We just need to focus our frustration in the right direction. We shouldn’t get angry with the individual. But with the powers and principalities and rulers of flesh that the individual allows to run his life or to influence him.

That was a solution that we can readily accept. See, I needed to put my anger aside and forgive my family member. That is hard to do when we are angry at someone. But when we can look at the situation from the perspective that our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against the Prince of Darkness or Satan, then we are able to separate the cause from the person and accept that we can still walk in love with one another even when we are struggling with the actions of others. That is a path of forgiveness that we can accept. We can pray for anyone that we are angry at with sincerity by praying that the powers and principalities that are influencing their life be overcome. We can sincerely ask for a blessing for someone who would otherwise be an enemy.

And to do this, we must rely on Jesus. Here is a review of the seven spiritual weapons:

Our belt of truth is Jesus Christ.
Our breastplate of righteousness is Jesus Christ.
Our covering for our feet is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our shield of faith is our belief in Jesus Christ.
Our helmet of salvation is Jesus Christ.
Our sword of the spirit is Jesus Christ.

He is our truth, our righteousness, our salvation and our good news. Through faith and obedience in him, and prayerfully establishing a daily relationship with him and prayerfully studying his word, we will be ready to fight against evil.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Open Letter to Nancy Reagan

This is an article that I wrote in 2004. My name back then was Kathy R. Haag. I was married. At the time, Ronald Reagan had died and his wife, Nancy, was advocating using aborted baby tissue for stem cell research to combat Alzeheimer's disease. This was an emotionally charged issue at the time. This opinion piece was published in "The Partial Observer", which is an online collection of writings from different authors.

One voice advocating stem cell research responsibly.

by Kathy R. Haag
June 18, 2004

Dear Nancy:

I, along with the rest of our nation - love, respect and admire you for many reasons. First - for being what my mother calls a "lady". When my mother utters that word, it speaks volumes. It speaks of grace, dignity, character and living one's life all the time as if everyone were always watching, even when no one is looking. Margaret Thatcher once said, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people that you are, you aren't." And you, Mrs. Reagan, are a lady, in the truest sense of the word.

All Americans admire your fierce, endless, faithful, loyalty to the man whom you loved. We admire his good sense to listen to the one who cared about him the most. We admired the two of you as individuals; and as a team.

Mrs. Reagan, we admired your taste and understanding of what our nation needed after the death of our former President. We thank you for the opportunity to say our good-byes and honor the man that we loved too. We felt that we had lost a family member who led this nation the same way that a strong father leads his family.

This leadership began immediately after the first inauguration, which had been carried out while Americans were held hostage in Iran. When one of our Americans is a hostage, then all of our nation is held hostage. President Reagan understood the sacredness of freedom and was committed to support it all over the world. However, before he could help to free a member of any other nation, our own had to be freed. Within 30 minutes of his presidency, this goal was accomplished. Then he moved on to help to build the bridge of freedom to the rest of the world.

I remember the excitement when I heard MY President, say "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Then, months later, I got chill bumps watching the wall come down. I had tears in my eyes, understanding that history of an unbelievable magnitude was occurring in front of all of our eyes and realizing that there would be people in my generation who would never understand the significance of that moment because we have never known the kind of tyranny and oppression that occurs daily worldwide. We are the lucky ones. We have always been free.

He moved on to help to liberate the people in Grenada after they asked for our help.

I remember him bombing the palace of the Libyan leader Khadafi. After that, Mr. Khadafi was subdued - and I was thankful.

I remember pride in the fact that he was not one to push around. He believed in walking softly but carrying a big stick.

And I remember our President also knew when he had to act as a father figure to a nation in mourning. Our entire country wept and grieved together over the Space Shuttle disaster. He led us in our grief, hugged family members, and personally grieved with them - and he was sincere in his grief.

And we admired you both for taking a stance on difficult positions and not being afraid to stand strong on those positions even when it was not the most popular thing to do. Your husband said, "We didn't discover our values in a poll taken a week before the convention".

One of these difficult positions was the stance of President Reagan on the abortion issue. He and you, as I understood it were against abortion. You stood strong to that position in the face of protests, and disagreements from all directions, including within your own family. You and the President knew right from wrong and you made that clear. He said, "Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born."

I, and many other Americans supported your position. The pro-abortion camp calls themselves pro-choice. They say that they believe in the right to a woman being able to choose what she does with her body. I agree that every woman should and does have that right. The problem is that I disagree with their timing. I believe that the time to choose what to do with your body is before sex that results in conception. When deciding whether or not to engage in sex is the right time for a woman to make the choice of what to do with her body ...not after the baby has been conceived. After conception of a new life, the time of choice for what a woman should do with her fetus, which they consider to be a part of their body, should be gone.

But life has a way of putting us in positions that we had never anticipated. And it is from these bad positions, that growth occurs. And growth is painful. We are faced to look at issues from a new perspective and this is when we find out where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. We find out how we feel when this issue becomes personal. And sometimes feel forced to understand that maybe we were wrong. And sometimes we have to face the sad fact that we were right but that being right does not come without a price.

When faced with the pain of an issue that faces a loved one, we begin to do all that we can to help them. We try to help them get cured. We try to help them conquer the challenge, whatever it takes. And then one day we find out that there isn't a cure and we can't fix the problem. All we can do is to stand by and try to help ease the burden and pain and suffering on them as much as possible. And the realization that there is nothing that can be done to fix a problem for someone else after a tremendous effort results in a kind of death in itself: the death of an effective way to solve problems. No one can know the pain unless they have walked in these shoes. It is personal, heart-wrenching pain. But... for those of us who are NOT quitters and who WILL NOT sit idly by and give up, we take on a different course. We turn to activism of some form...hopefully in a positive, constructive way.

And that, my heroine, is what you have done. Even before the final demise of your husband, you stood up and publicly requested that Mr. Bush increase government funding to expand embryonic stem cell research to help to cure the afflicted...The ones who, like your husband have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and spinal injuries, just to name a few. And in their love and respect for you and your husband, many congressmen have jumped in and are trying to lobby the President to do the same. What you did took courage. You stood up and crossed party lines, publicly disagreeing with a sitting Republican President to make your voice heard. You did it with a very soft voice and a very personal cause. Nobody can help but to admire this.

A Soviet leader once said about Margaret Thatcher, your friend and your husband's ideological soul mate, "She is an lady made of iron." Upon hearing this quote, Margaret Thatcher replied,” He was right!" Well, Mrs. Reagan, please excuse my southern slang, but Margaret Thatcher ain't got nothin' on you! You too, are a lady made of iron, and you are still a lady.

But my President, Mr. George Bush, believes in limited government funding on stem cell research because of the source of the stem cells to be used: from aborted fetal tissue and from frozen embryos. When the frozen embryos are used, the taking of the stem cells from the embryos will result in the destruction of the embryo. This is a form of abortion. There are the arguments that many of these embryos would have been aborted through destruction over a period of years anyway. This probably is true. There are the arguments that a woman who is going to have an abortion will have one anyway. That no one will decide to have an abortion for stem cell research purposes but for purely private reasons and there is no need in this going for waste. As long as these very terrible things are going to happen anyway, let the tragedy be turned into something that will save a life that is already living and will soon be suffering. But that would be using government funds to help research using aborted fetuses. And George Bush has a conscience that believes in the same sacredness of life that you and Mr. Reagan used to say that you believed in too.

I know that you still believe in the sacredness of life. I think that you are still against abortion. Are you? And I believe that when President Reagan was President, if given the same issue to decide, would have decided the same exact way that Mr. President George W. Bush has. And I believe that you would have supported him staunchly. But that was before it became painfully personal for you.

I had a Grandfather who was stricken and died from Parkinson's disease. I had to watch his deterioration advance rapidly until he, too, got to the point that no one could reach him. I can tell stories, not too different from those stories told by your children. One day, when spoon-feeding him rice pudding, he looked at the nurse, who cared for him in his house and said about me, "I don't know who this girl is, but she sure is sweet". That was a sweet moment for me. I remember in the same visit when he was shuffling through the kitchen, he looked at me and had a glimmer in his eye and said, "Hi, Hon!” In addition, I was tickled because, for that brief moment, I knew he recognized me. And that was special. That was to be the last time that he recognized me. His condition continued to deteriorate to a place where we could no longer reach him, just as you described your husband. I wonder at times if they were in the same place. Then, my wonderful grandfather died. And I love him and still miss him to this day.

This issue is personally painful for me as well. But I ask you to not pressure Bush and the Congress to drop their current policy completely. There are 2 other sources for stem cells: One is from the umbilical cord blood for a healthy newborn baby and the other is from regular fat cells in the body of everyone. I personally, would like to donate all of those that I can. Do you know of a number that I can call?

Please ask our leaders to increase funding for stem cell research on stem cells emanating from the cord blood of newborns and from normal fat cells. And I think that this is a compromise that we can all champion without an attack on our conscience.

Our leaders are anxious to help with this cause out of love for their former President and his family. The timing is right for positive change. But we must realize that this must be done the right way, not with an knee-jerk emotional reaction thinking that had we done this sooner, Mr. Reagan would still be with us. His quality of life would probably have been much better. But the truth is that we are all mortal and 93 years of life is not bad at all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

After life

Hosea 13:14 " ...Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction? "

I was blessed with the best grandmother ever. We called her Mamaw.

All of my young life, my family regularly traveled the three hours northeast from Brewton, Alabama to Opelika, Alabama, where my Mamaw and Bampa lived. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by my grandparents, and immediately ushered into the lighted kitchen, where we were fed, regardless of whether or not we had eaten dinner. After eating what was usually a warm bowl of macaroni soup, we never had trouble sleeping.

Our Mamaw and Bampaw, they were quite a pair.

They were married 68 years when my grandfather passed away. Mamaw passed away a few years after that.

When Mamaw went into the hospital for the last time, she knew that things were bad and she told my mom to call all of us and let us know to come. So, I packed up my one year old son Levi and went to Opelika straight to the East Alabama Medical Center to visit her in the hospital. I had someone to come and get Levi so I could stay as long as I felt comfortable. She was having trouble breathing. Her lungs were damaged from radiation treatment that she had received as part of treatment for breast cancer years before. The cancer was eradicated for a few years and then returned into her bones.

My uncle Jack was at the hospital, sitting with her and trying to help her to feel secure. But she kept asking for my mom, who had been at the hospital all day and had gone home to get some rest. I stayed a while, and then went home to her house.

Uncle Jack came to the house the next morning and announced that Mamaw was resting comfortably. I think that she was in a coma. I went to the hospital and had to leave because my son needed a nap and could not sleep at the hospital. I left with him and got a motel room where he could sleep without any distractions. While at the motel, my cousin, Toppy arrived to inform me that Mamaw passed away. My mom had sent her there to tell me so that she wouldn't have to do it over the phone. I cried and thanked her and got Levi ready to go to the hospital to see her before she was removed for the funeral home.

When I arrived, there was a full room of family waiting to go into her room. There were also close neighbors and the aides who worked at the house helping her to do housework and dress. I went around the room hugging people one by one, telling each one that my grandmother loved him or her dearly. Every single one of them responded by saying, "I know, she told me all the time."

What a gift she had to let people know how much they meant to her while she was still alive.

We went into her hospital room to say our last goodbyes and to see her peaceful before they left with her to go to the funeral home.

I returned to the motel and got a nap with Levi. After we awoke, I was praying on my knees. I was praying for her soul and that God would take her in his loving arms in heaven. It was then that I saw an image of Mamaw in my mind. She was dressed up and her hair was fixed nice and she had on makeup and looked very pretty. She told me that she was so happy; for me not to worry about her because she was OK. She said that if she had known about how wonderful that place was before she came, she would have gone a long time ago.

At that point my grief was immediately replaced with joy. I thanked God for her life and for taking care of her.

I related this story to my family and told them what a comfort it was to receive such a message. Some of them were comforted by this.

And now, I go through life with the assurance that what we are doing on this earthly plain is very important. But I believe that the real living will be with Jesus in heaven.

I still miss Mamaw. But I still have comfort from this image of her after death. And I am assured that if I press on toward the prize, I will see her again.

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"-- I Corinthians 15:55