(excerpted from my book, “Radiant Beams”)
I know, from reading the Bible, that believers in Jesus will never die, but have eternal life in heaven. I knew it, but didn’t “get it” in my gut. So, like a lot of people, I used to get a little freaked out by cemeteries. What’s the point, if nobody is even there, after death? You can’t connect. A graveyard is a cold, sterile place.
And then I heard this crazy story, from a friend who, like me, had lost her dad. They were both in their 60s and had heart problems.
This friend had been almost in a trance during the funeral and for a few months thereafter. She was going through the motions, receiving people’s condolences, helping her mother dispose of his things and so forth.
It was as if she was in shock. She hadn’t really dealt with the fact that he was dead. She knew he wasn’t around any more, and wasn’t coming back. He was a believer, so she knew he wasn’t in hell. But this heaven thing perplexed her. What, did he float up there like a ghost? How could she be sure? Overwhelmed and still grieving, she back-burnered her questions and worries.
Then came Memorial Day weekend. She thought she’d go visit his grave by herself. She was whizzing along in her car with the air conditioning on, on the Interstate, almost there, when suddenly . . .
. . . she was overpowered by the aroma of cigar smoke.
Whaaa? She didn’t smoke. No other adult had sat in her car for weeks, much less smoked in it. She cracked her windows open. But the aroma remained. If it seeped in from a passing car, it would have seeped right out again. But it didn’t. Where on earth did that come from? Nobody smoked cigars any more.
And then it dawned on her:
Her father had smoked cigars.
As soon as that thought crossed her mind, the aroma was gone.
The incident lasted only a moment. But it was enough for her to perceive that it wasn’t just a coincidence. It was a message.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was laughing and sobbing and gasping.
Dad! Dad! You’re alive! You’re still with me!
She pulled off the Interstate, parked at the cemetery, ran over to the headstone, threw her arms around it, and laughed and cried and prayed for a good, long while.
Today, she tells the story, shakes her head, and smiles a big, beautiful Decoration Day smile. That smile of assurance and peace was all I needed, to help me understand. I could finally do what I needed to do, which was to leave grief and numbness behind me about my own dad’s death, and finally, rejoice out of the blessed assurance that I’ll see him again.
Now, THAT’S something to party about. You came close, Death. Close . . . but no cigar. †
For as in Adam all die,
even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
— 1 Corinthians 15:22
By Susan Darst Williams • 5/25/2020 • www.RadiantBeams.org • © 2020