Beautiful blessings found in death

By Becky Spell Vann - Contributing columnist

Does dying frighten you? Do you believe beauty can be seen amidst the sadness of death? I do; I have witnessed the sting of death up close and personal as loved ones slipped slowly and quickly away into the arms of Jesus. Many readers are remembering your own seasons of sorrow.

Death comes like the rhyme in the Red Rover, ‘ready or not here I come’! Being prepared is a way of life taught in God’s Word. Yet, we procrastinate with good intentions that get sidetracked. Having things right in one’s heart and things in order in one’s life assure stepping into glory with peace and promise of life eternal. Living without Jesus in one’s heart is like playing Russian roulette; one day death will come, even when bullets have been dodged and second chances given for some. Yet, however, whenever, wherever death comes, one cannot escape the calling or evade the process. When death knocks at our door, how will we answer? Do we fearfully or faithfully face death’s call?

There is never a good time or easy way to say good bye to one we share life with here; still, death can come like a thief in the night or linger for seasons of suffering. Being good to go with Jesus in our hearts and prayers prayed up provide insurance for eternal happiness. Witnessing the sweet spirit settle in places where people we love prepare for the paradise brings beauty beyond the process of death.

Billy Graham was asked the question that begins this story when being interviewed about Heaven. He quickly told the pack of people jotting down his every word in their journals, “No, I am not afraid of dying. It’s the process that I do not look forward to”.

Death is a topic many refuse to discuss. Dealing with the process and aftermath can overwhelm. Funeral homes and grave yards can frighten the young and restless or the old and unprepared. Fear can cause family members and friends to miss divine blessings and ‘beauty to behold’ in the process of one crossing from this world into glory. Being grounded in faith and best Friends with Jesus can subdue fear and scatter blessings through the process of death and celebration of going Home. Weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning for mourners who stay grounded in faith while glorifying God.

King David endured the process of death faithfully when his son was called Home. King David fasted, prayed, and travailed throughout his son’s sickness; yet, when his son passed away, he tore off his mourning clothes, ate a good meal, and faced death with reassuring faith. King David knew his son was Home with his heavenly Father, and joy filled his soul. He refused to stay stuck in seasons of sorrow but chose to rise up and carry on with the plans God had for his life.

Seasons of darkness burden but the sun always comes out to warm our hearts and brighten our tomorrows. You can bet your bottom dollar. Better yet, you can be prepared and place plans for your today and tomorrows in God’s Hands. Yesterday is gone. Dusting our feet off and moving forward in faith is wise. Nurturing close relationships with the Lord and loved ones blesses and protects while completing His plans for the rest of our lives. We never forget those who have passed away but chose to remember them with joy as we live out loud in love and relish blessed assurance that we will be together again in glory. I’m silently shouting praises to God while watching Mrs. Ann sweetly slip closer to her Savior, while her family sleeps in their house by the sound at Topsail.

I write this story in darkness at the bedside of a beloved friend who reaches out for Jesus’ Hand one minute and smiles through little snores the next. Mrs. Ann Kerr, my neighbor, sweetly and surely goes through the process that will soon take her to paradise.

Ann’s children and I have shared seasons of sunshine and sorrow. Her oldest daughter, Mary Ann Shelton, and I were close friends and neighbors while raising our children in the same neighborhood in Clinton. Steve and LeeAnn were my afterschool children for many years, the apples of my eye. They were among the first crop of children God sent me to care for in the early nineties when we opened The Learning Station. I think of Mary Ann who left this world in tip top shape spiritually and physically. She was called Home suddenly at a restaurant where she and her family waited in line for their last meal together after attending Sunday church services. Fingers frozen on keyboard, I search for words pleasing to my Father that convey the heartaches of dying that can become hallelujahs of living when we keep our eyes on Jesus. Going through processes and passing from here to paradise bring eternal blessings when we are connected to Christ.

As the first rays of daylight filter through the closed shades in Mrs. Ann’s bedroom, I feel the presence of angels among us. Surely, Mary Ann is in this place as is her daddy (Ann’s sweet hubby) who Kerr School is named after. There is a sweet spirit in the bedroom where Mrs. Ann’s personality prevails. Groups of family pictures show seasons of a loving, connected family making memories together. I thought of the countless days Ann awoke to the sounds of the sea and pictures showing her four children’s smiles from baby stages to adulthood and of long nights when she read books in bed and communed with Christ before closing her eyes for a good night’s sleep. As dawn breaks, her eyes flint, breathing slows, and hands are cupped together on her chest with one hand laying on top of hers. In the darkness, I could only see silhouettes of Ann and someone restlessly sleeping beside her. I sit still in quietness, with only my fingers moving as He sends a message of hope for all His children who live… will die… and can live forever with Him in heaven. The choice is ours.

Streams of sunshine fill the room where darkness diminished the blessing before my eyes. Nancy, Ann’s youngest daughter and caregiver, slept with her hand resting on top of her mother’s hands. Wiping tears in silent praise, I paused in awe of God who sends blessings for the eyes of the beholder…even when death’s sting comes to our homes and breaks our hearts. This was a God moment I was humbled to experience in the Kerr home on Topsail Island.

Lane, Ann’s only son and the apple of her eye, entered his mother’s bedroom with his usual smile and happy greeting for a new day. I pointed to Nancy’s hand resting atop her mother’s and said, “I wish I had my phone to capture this memory.” He left the room and returned with camera in hand. After taking the priceless picture, we talked quietly of how his mother wanted to stay at Topsail until God called her Home. I closed my computer. We silently watched his mother sleeping with angels among us.

I picked up a card beside Ann’s bedside with hearts and Mom in bold letters. The message Nancy had written to her mother seemed to be the perfect ending for this early morning story. Lane and I enjoyed a cup of coffee, powerful prayer, and delightful conversation about death and the joy of living out loud in love as daylight shimmered like golden strands across the sound. Our hearts understood two beautiful blessings in death…no fear and no regrets!

Becky Spell Vann is the owner of The Learning Station and Tim’s Gift.

By Becky Spell Vann

Contributing columnist

Becky Spell Vann is the owner of The Learning Station and Tim’s Gift.

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