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It was a week ago today that I went to see her. It would be the last time I got to visit with her.
I walked into her room and while her body looked a bit frailer – all was the same. Her Bible was sitting near her recliner – right where it always is when I go and visit. Her devotional book on gratitude was also not too far away and the Christian radio was on.
The oxygen, however, was new – and her face was more pale than I had seen before. The weakness was increased; but the smile that crossed her lips was the same. I looked at her lying there and knew that she did not have much time left on this earth.
Our eyes met and I smiled; but it was Virginia who spoke first, “How’s Rob?”
I had meant to go and be an encouragement to her; but felt that I completely failed at my mission. Tears streamed down my cheeks and the words would not come. She pulled her hand out from under the sheet and motioned for me to come close and hold her hand. I did. I sat beside her – held her hand in mine and I wept. I laid my head down on the white sheet covering her body and sobs shook mine. She sat there holding my hand and let me cry and as I cried, her grip tightened – it was a grip that was firm and held onto my hand so tightly – much too tightly than she should have been able to grip in her weakened state. I felt as if God Himself – through her – was holding my hand.
I regained my composure – and she pointed to the Bible. “Read me something from the Bible”, she suggested. I asked her where and she told me it did not matter.
I opened to the ninety-first Psalm. “He that Dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…” I read it - in it’s entirety – finishing up with:
“For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways…”
I went over to Psalm 27 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” …. I read the last verse, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD”
We read through the nineteenth Psalm all the way back to the twenty – seventh. I turned over to Isaiah and read in chapter sixty-one. I was once again challenged to my purpose and call in life as I read the first three verses. It had been the mission of Christ when He came to earth the first time; and as a follower of Him – with His Spirit indwelling me – it is my mission too: ministry – service – caring for those who are hurting.
As I read and thought about Miss Virginia’s life I was pretty sure that it had been her mission in life also.
Then it was as if God Himself told me to turn to the New Testament and read. I went to Romans 8 and read. As always I was captivated by the verse we quote so often in times of trial: “We know that all things work together for good…” It’s a promise I am actively claiming as I watch Rob sick with cancer. Yet, it was verse thirty-five that brought back the tears:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? … Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” My voice began to shake as I read on, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature , shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Tears rolled down my cheeks and her hand once again gripped mine – I continued to read.
She wanted more – I needed more.
I turned to II Corinthians 4 and started reading. “ Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not…” I continued reading on; but when I got to verse eight I had to stop. I could not read and she squeezed my hand. She knew the passage by heart – she knew why I was stopping and she sat quietly while the tears fell. Finally, I started reading again, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” I had to paused again before I could continue the next verse. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” It was then that I felt her grip tighten and she squeezed my hand again – but did not let go of the grip; as she did she weakly shook her head and I hear her hum her agreement with the passage.
I continued, “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
I thought about how her dying had worked in me. How watching her die with a commitment to her Savior and His faithfulness to her had worked good in me . It had shown me how to handle the trials of life. It had worked in me by showing me how even in great weakness she still could love her Savior.
I continued reading, “… Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also b Jesus, and shall present us with you. … “For which caused we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment…” The tears started once again and though they ran down my cheeks – I continued to read as she gripped my hand tighter. “…Worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
There is something about seeing the meaning of scripture right before your very eyes. She motioned for me to continue reading. I did; and scripture spoke for itself as I read to this saint so close to Heaven’s gate she could almost feel it.
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: (She again hummed her agreement with the verse and I continued to read) …”For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened not for that we would be unclothed; but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life… Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; (For we walk by faith, not by sight;) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body , and to be present with the Lord. ..”
We closed her Bible then and she asked me to sing her a song. I did.
I hear my Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small.
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in Me – Thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
And when before the throne,
I stand in Him complete
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
My lips shall still repeat:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.
She asked me to pray and I did. Usually, when I finish praying she just says thanks; but on this Monday as soon as I said “Amen” she spoke with a voice so strong – you would not even think she was ill, “And Lord, be with Rob. You know he desires to serve you with his life; and you know I desire to come home. Give us both the desires of our hearts.”
Her desire has been granted. He called her home to glory yesterday. She fought a good fight, she finished her course and I am most assured that she will hear – “Well done!”
Last Monday was one of the most meaningful days of my life. I will never forget her; and I look forward to seeing Virginia again in Glory. She was and is one person in my “cloud of witnesses”. She showed me daily how to live, how to love my Savior and how to love others. She showed me also how to die. I have been touched by her love – my life will never be the same.