|"Heaven Holding Earth" by R. DiCianni|
Growing up, I did a lot of singing with my grandfather who was widely known in the area as a wedding singer and gospel musician. He, my sister, and I would perform together at various events, singing a variety of songs. However, my grandfather's favorites were the ones that talked about heaven. I never understood his heaven hang-up. Why can't he just enjoy life right where he is? I would wonder.
I have a vivid memory of standing around my grandfather's bed in hospice singing hymns and songs of heaven: the place that stood one final exhaled breath away from him. And in that moment, there was such peace. Not just in him, but in all of us. In retrospect, it reminds me, strangely enough, of a letter written by a Civil War Colonel who believed he was on his own deathbed. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote to his wife, "I am lying mortally wounded the Doctors think but my mind and heart are at peace. Jesus Christ is my all-sufficient savior. I go to him . . . Oh how happy to feel yourself forgiven."
I'm sure Chamberlain (who actually survived his injuries) felt the world was imploding and Armageddon was just around the corner. (He was the hero of Gettysburg--imagine the horrors he witnessed in that battle alone.) Yet he had peace. My grandfather, when singing his beloved heaven-songs, had peace. These men had peace because they had a Savior. And they knew that this life won't last, however awful and fear-inspiring it may be for the short time we live it.
Peace is possible. I've seen it. I've felt it. I just can't expect to find it by watching the news, huddling around my children (thinking that will actually keep them safe), and jumping at every noise I hear. Call it a crutch, blind ignorance, wishful thinking, or hope; call it whatever you want, but I am convinced that this world is not all there is. That we all are perpetually on our deathbed until we have passed from this world into real life beyond. That no suffering is ever wasted. And that there is, as Shakespeare said, "a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will." It is that Divinity alone--that knowable, loving, ever-present Savior--who makes peace possible.