She was lying on a hospital bed in the living room of her 60’s styled home. The month before, she had turned 86 and had lived as a widow for five years. Her paid caretakers had watched over her as her family had increased their visits knowing her departure was sooner than later.
Her oldest daughter had called the other children and said, “Mamma is dying, it will not be long so you need to come as soon as you can.” They all arrived with a few added grandchildren old enough to know. As each one entered the old home place, their eyes sought their mother’s face to see if she was still alive.
Her mouth was gapped open with her dentures removed. She was now taking shallow breaths. Her little shriveled hands were darkly bruised by old age, blood thinners, and needle pricks. She was not conscious, and everyone knew her eyes were in a sleep that would not wake. The room was in a hushed state, with no one wanting to breach the sacred moment of Mamma Thelma leaving earth for Heaven.
It was hard to believe this old dying woman was once a giggling schoolgirl just a few shadows ago. She was once a beautiful bride that made her young husband’s heart beat fast. Sister Thelma was known for her quick wit and gentle ways. No one went hungry at her table and her spot on the pew in the house of God was always filled. Every sick neighbor had tasted her chicken stew and the Throne Room of Heaven knew her prayers.
Now this once vibrant mother who could shout and sing, was only able to pull whispers of breath. Her sons and daughters each viewed her passing with the bouquet of joy and sadness placed in a vase of faith, “Mamma’s going home to be with Jesus!”
Her final breath fled and never returned. The hospice nurse placed her stethoscope to Thelma’s chest and then turned to face the family and simply said, “She’s gone, I’m so sorry for you all.”
Thelma’s girls began to sob, and the boys swallowed hard. The one who raised them right, fed them strong, kissed their cheeks, and taught them to tie their shoes and play checkers was gone. Thelma’s earthly vessel lay before them, but no one was home.
Minutes before, while the children were nervously waiting for her to die; Thelma was resting in her subconscious self. Her recent comatose state had left her in a dream-like world. The pain had dimmed and the soft conversation in her room sounded like distant muffled voices. Her mind did not process the scene only a dreamy kaleidoscope of whisps and blurs.
In less than a millisecond of her last brainwave all become luminously clear. Her fogginess immediately evaporated, and the blur of the room cleared. She peered for a moment from above the life she had lived and there was no longing to return. Thelma was encapsulated in a realm of peace and beauty; she felt the sensation of movement but of no effort of travel. Her first vision of this translated reality was of two strong angelic escorts to her right and left.
The angels’ countenance was not smiling but pleasantly peaceful while strong. Their vision was transfixed on a distance beyond this world and beyond. Streams of light were streaking past them at a speed beyond understanding. And all at once with no abruptness, the angelic escort with Thelma, went from an umpteen warp speed to a gentle petal landing in a world filled with colors beyond human comprehension.
She was guided down a boulevard called Straight. Her escort communicated by thought that she first had to see the Lamb. Then with a sudden burst of glory she stood before the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He was seated on a throne where she was led before Him. His countenance was like the Sun in multiplied glory, His eyes were like fire, and His voice was like many waters. She melted at His feet in humble, worshipful obedience.
What came next would not have been earthly possible. In a moment of time, the Lord opened the story of her life. Every thought, motivation, and action revealed in vivid detail. Clear scenes of life sped at eternal pace but with crispness and complete understanding. She saw the day she surrendered her life to Christ and believed by faith and heard the joyous roar from God Himself in Heaven that day. In this moment she saw the times she prayed and believed for others. The day she un-busied her life and made a meal for the family of the mother who was dying of cancer was accented by the Savior’s broad smile. Scene after scene of servanthood and love flew past her mind.
Not all was joy. Her heart melted and her tears flowed like rivers when the moment was revealed of her balking from the Spirit’s prompting to tell her neighbor of Jesus. The hundred dollars she clutched tight when she should have given freely seemed worse than dog dung to her now. Every missed opportunity, every deed done only for pride, and every particle of earth pursued that was now seen as mere dust.
Her heart was breaking, she had thought surely this is Heaven, but how could she feel so in His presence. The angelic escorts told her without uttering a word, “This is the Judgement Seat of Christ, your straw and wood are being consumed but the silver and gold are being refined. The Lamb has prevailed to save your soul and give you Life.” Thelma was only a little comforted, but her tears continued to flood.
Scene after scene of her life flew by at eternity speed. She saw the gold and felt the straw. Thelma witnessed the beauty of the grace in her life and wept in sorrow of the opportunities of life forfeited for mere pleasure. She winced at the victories because she saw them not as her own but only the Lord’s grace and power. The sorrows of her anger, stinginess, and time wasted made her cry with a flood of tears like that of a torrent.
Suddenly, the scenes stopped as fast as they began. She saw Jesus rise from His throne and reaching with His hands. He said, “Now my beloved We had to account for your life. You placed your faith in me because My Father placed your sins upon Me. Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you; I have called you by your new name; You are Mine.”
And with a stroke of His hand, He wiped all the tears from her eternal eyes. The touch of His hand had vanished the tears, regret, pain, and loss. It was as if it had never happened. She felt lighter than air, and peace beyond description. An eternal love permeated her being and joy filled every portion of her soul.
Immediately there was a river of life flowing with crystal clear waters from the throne. Jesus told her to drink. She drank deeply of the refreshing waters that electrified her every cell. As she glanced into the mirrored waters, she saw a young lady of herself but much more. The scar on her face was missing. Her mouth was filled with glistening white straight teeth. Her body was not only free from any ping of pain but invigorated with pulsating life. All the loose skin was tight. Her sight so keen she could see the gold of the streets as transparent to its very depth. Suddenly, she knew the answer to every mystery and the knowledge of all the ages.
When she rose from the long drink of living waters, what she beheld a mortal could not have borne. God the Father in all His unveiled glory, along with the Son of God arrayed in garments of glistening white, and swirled about by the blue haze of Holy Spirit twirled the circle dance of creation and life.
The whole environment was filled with laughter and song. A chorus of praise for the greatness of God filled the eternal expanse. She could hear the voices of the choir of the redeemed, singing in the language of ten thousand tongues beautifully harmonized to a perfect pitch. Amazingly, she could understand each native tongue of earth as if it were her own. The blended choir could be detected as each voice stood alone while at the same time harmonized into one sound.
Bouquets of living flowers that would never fade were thrown to her path. The angels and saints called her a new name that she instantly knew as her own. It was the name describing her uniqueness from the many billions who had lived. It reflected her known-ness by her Creators: Father God, Glorified Son, and Spirit of the Living God.
Another wave of joyous chorus of praise flooded all the expanse of Heaven. In a moment she witnessed the redeemed of God. Her family and friends who she knew upon the earth. Then those saints of old that she had heard about but never knew were recognizable and known; Moses, Elijah, the Samaritan woman at the well, the lad who brought the fish and the loaves, John the Baptist plus hundreds more. Then ten thousand upon ten thousand of saints of every nation, tribe, tongue, and people who she immediately knew as if she had always known. One by one and all at once, they celebrated their redemption but more importantly their Redeemer.
On earth a handful of people streamed by to see Thelma’s clay form wrapped in a light purple dress she had picked out for this day. The preacher told of her wonderful qualities and of her salvation as a seventeen-year-old bride. The choir sang Precious Memories and the family shed tears. The pallbearers carried her to the spot next to her husband and threw red clay onto a gray vault. Her granddaughters each picked a flower to press and preserve.
The funeral gathering both bereaved and relieved, ate cold chicken and potato salad as the conversation turned to ball games and weather. Thelma smiled from Heaven as she had walked that way a hundred times before. Then she flew off on the Breath of the Spirit to sing a thousand years on the first stanza of a Song of Praise in Mandarin, then Spanish, then a language long forgotten by man, but sung by a dear saint of old.
DISCLAIMER: Sister Thelma and her family are fictional characters composed from all of us. I have never died nor visited Heaven in a trance. However, I am a follower of Jesus and a student of His Word. This is my perspective of what happens when a follower of Jesus dies. Don’t leave earth until you can go like Thelma!
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 NKJV
(1) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
(2) For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
(3) if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
(4) For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
(5) Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
(6) So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
(7) For we walk by faith, not by sight.
(8) We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
(9) Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
(10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV
(12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
(13) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
(14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
(15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.