We had gathered by your side for so long, it felt like. For the last few nights, as I lay beside you, I would wake up regularly to see if you were still breathing and to pray. “God, I am so grateful for Robin. I have been so blessed. Please hear her prayer. Please take her home. Please let her die.” You had been asking for death. “I want death.” You had been impatient. “I’m ready. Let’s get moving.” You pretty much ignored the “why?” questions of Scripture in your “sickness unto death.” But you didn’t ignore the “how long?” questions. It was so heartbreaking to hear, not because it wasn’t true or right, but because in your life you have been so committed to living, to living a life alive with wonder and trust and joy. So, when you prayed for death it was because it was inevitable in the short term and because the pain – despite the pain management – was such an impediment to life. Nevertheless, when we repositioned you, you groaned through the whole process and yet prayed, “I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful.” “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
So, when we saw your fingertips turn blue, your ears pinned back, your lips become dusky, we watched the rise and fall of your chest waiting for the next breath, and the last breath. You had said in those last days, “I think I’m gone, but then my breath comes back.” I don’t know how it is that we think when we are dead, but I imagine we do. I imagine that death is not some eternal silence, some great nothingness. I believe that death, for us, is not final. “Where, O Death, is thy sting?” I don’t know what life after death will be like, except that it is life with God, it is a life in which “God will be all in all.” It is a life in which the joy you cultivated, the joy you chose – even in cancer, even in miscarriage, even in unexpected moves, even in countless other personal struggles – it will be a life in which that joy shapes everything. And, on the last day, whenever that is, whether now or later, resurrection of the body.
I’m glad God loves bodies, the intricate intimacies, the smells and tastes. I’m glad that Jesus took on human flesh and blood. I’m glad that we are promised resurrection of the body in the last day. All the joys of bodies – touch, walking together, gathering around a table – will be renewed in that day without pain and weakness. I can’t imagine, at least not well, joy without pain, but it sounds pretty good, if the joy is actually authentic. And anything that is in God’s presence is authentic, is true. “God will be all in all.”
“Speak to the breath, son of man, to come and fill the bodies of these slain.” That weird experience you had, when you thought you had gone only to discover that your breath came back … that weird experience has been fulfilled for the final time and God’s ultimate purpose for you made complete. One more time, the breath of God breathes, and you live, we live. “Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and we are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” So, Darling, live your life alive, alive with the Spirit and grace and power of God. So, family and friends, let us live our lives alive, alive with the Spirit and grace and power of God. It is a mystery, but it is no less true: “Precious in the Lord’s sight is the death of his faithful ones.” Precious because a faithful death is part of a faithful life. And precious because that faithful death is the gateway to resurrection. Only what dies is raised to new life. That’s why we waited with you, Robin. That’s why we asked with you, “How long?” Not because we waited for death, but because we waited for life.
So now, you and Jesus wait for us. “Will he find faith[fulness] on the earth?” Yes. We will be faithful, not just to your memory but to your hope, your hope in the God who promises to care for the widow and orphan, your hope in the God who puts the last first, your hope in the God who creates a new community that the world is not ready to welcome, your hope in the God of the living, the God who raises the dead.
From Pastor JP's remarks at Robin's graveside.