For some, death is fast—a split-second jump from temporal to eternal.
For some, death is slow—a journey few have returned from.
My grandfather has been on this journey.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
My grandfather has been walking through the valley, toward the river, for several days now. I think Jesus is walking beside him.
My grandfather was a quiet man. I imagine he is still quiet—strolling quietly with Jesus through the darkness with mountains closing up around them, with looming boulders and fallen trees, along an old path.
Where are we going? Home.
What about Charlene? I’ll take care of her.
What about my kids? They’ll be okay.
What about my granddaughter? Don’t worry, Ross. I’ve got her too. And she knows that you loved her, even if you didn’t always know how to show love to her in the ways she understood best.
A cry from a wolf, a screech from a hawk, a cold wind blowing past.
She loved you too, Ross.
The valley opens to a dark meadow. The evening flowers open and fill the air with their fragrance. Jesus walks with my grandfather through the meadow.
I am afraid. So was I. But the river is just up ahead. We’re almost home.
Will it hurt? Not while I’m with you.
Will you stay? I will never leave you nor forsake you, Ross. I’ll be with you the whole way.
The sound of water, the smell of damp earth.
On the bank of the River Jordan, Jesus turns to face my grandfather. My grandfather looks away, looks at the river, looks at the mist.
Is it time?
Jesus steps onto the water. It responds to the familiar step and buoys him up. He takes another step, then turns to face my grandfather.
Ross, did you believe that I loved you?
My grandfather’s eyes fill with tears. Jesus reaches out a scarred hand, and my grandfather takes it.
Walk with me, Ross.
My grandfather steps out and meets Jesus on the water. They walk quietly through the darkness and mist. As they walk, my grandfather’s weak body grows stronger. His frailness melts into the river, and he stands straight once again, shoulders back, head high. He looks at Jesus through clear eyes.
They emerge from the mist into warm sunlight. The fragrance of the morning flowers fills the air. As he steps onto dry ground, my grandfather looks at Jesus.
Jesus meets his gaze with ancient youthful eyes, with eyes that know all things, with eyes full of self-sacrificing love.
Welcome home, Ross.