I don’t usually tell the end of the story first – but tonight I am going to. Because while the ending is sad, in quite another way, it was…… well, amazing! So here it is –
I got the call at 5:20 am this morning. It was Arlene Johnson. All she said were two words: “Roger’s gone…” And that was it; my friend of the last 29 years left this earth and started his heavenly existence. There’s more to it than that, and to be fair, I should tell you that he apparently died peacefully. Arlene had finally fallen asleep at 4:00 am in the chair next to Roger’s bed, and the next thing she knew, Paul, the night nurse, was waking her and letting her know that Roger no longer had need of his earthly body. He had “passed on” to heaven. I thought I detected the ever so slight wish that she had been awake for his death, but I was glad that it was so peaceful that she did not even arise.
Especially after all the pain and suffering he had experienced the last eight weeks, much of which has been chronicled in blog posts such as “He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My Brother” and “Sometimes It’s Hard to Die.” But the real story, in my opinion, was the remarkable work of Paul, the nurse who was on call last evening. Because I went to the hospital last night to spend several hours with Roger, Arlene and their daughter Karin. I arrived around 9:15 pm at the St. Vincent Hospice hear 86th and Michigan Road. I entered Room 64 and there Roger was, having been transported from the hospital to hospice care yesterday afternoon. He was agitated and disoriented – he didn’t recognize Karin, or me, and we finally called the nurse to see if something could be done to ease Roger’s restlessness.
And that’s when I met Paul. A former accountant, who went back to school at the age of 45 and became a nurse; to realize his ministry of care to the dying – helping them transition to heaven. He was the kindest, most merciful, humble nurse I think I have ever met. Paul never gets tired of serving others, never gets de-sensitized and treats each patient with special care and love – and I believe it. The spiritual gift of “helps” immediately crossed my mind as he changed linens, administered meds, comforted the family and attended to Roger. No rush – only kind, compassionate care.
And then he told me about all the miracles he has seen. He talked about the celebrations of life after a traumatic death; and the people who came to a belief in Christ after an up- close confrontation with death as a loved one succumbs to a last breath. And we talked about angels. I thought about all the studies I had to do on angels when I was in seminary. In fact, Angelology was one of my favorite courses. Time doesn’t permit me to touch on all the ministries of angels, but I think you might find several things very interesting.
For example, angels were the first created beings and were present before God created Man. Angels were created higher than man, and yet, in heaven, one of the ministries of angels is to serve Man. And think about how much God must love us to create angels to look after us and help us, guard us and fight spiritual battles for us, and we can’t even see them! And although there is no mention in the Scriptures of how many angels there are, many theologians believe that there are as many angels as there will ever be people on the earth – throughout all time. That gives new meaning to the words “legions of angels.”
As part of their ministry, another important thing angels do is to escort believers to heaven! Can you believe that? God sends angels to accompany His people to heaven. The verse is Luke 16:22, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side…….” And I don’t know about you, but I receive great comfort in knowing that believers are not alone when they make the journey to heaven. And I can’t help but think that perhaps God sent us an angel in the form of Paul to help Arlene and the rest of us deal with Roger’s transition to heaven. It was, in the truest sense of the word, a blessing.
So my encouragement tonight is that there are angels all around us who are charged by God with the duty of keeping us safe. And my prayer is a simple one; that you will ask God to welcome Roger into heaven, and that Arlene and her family may be comforted in the knowledge that Roger’s suffering is over. His transition wasn’t as easy as many others, but it was made better by the ministry of Paul, and undoubtedly, all of heaven is rejoicing tonight as they welcome another believer safely home.
So, my old friend, I will miss you, but I pray that we will see each other again some day, and in the meantime, you will be re-united with those you love who have gone before you. May God’s divine peace be with you throughout all eternity.