(On 6 February 2009, my Grandma passed away at the age of 85 years. Her funeral was on 14 February 2009 and the night before her family gathered to say a last good-bye. Words like these were spoken that night.)
We all have our memories of Grandma, mom, Wanda. The thing that I remember the most is that every Christmas, New Year’s and Easter we would to to Grandma’s and she would have these huge feasts. There would be turkey and mashed potatoes and gravey and two or three vegetables and salads. And every year at Christmas, there was the piece de resistance… Grandma’s popcorn balls and there was no one who could make popcorn balls like Grandma.
And at these big feasts, I would make it my goal to pile as much food as I could on my plate and then eat it all and have some seconds (and maybe some thirds) before I realized what I had eaten. I think that perhaps that was why I was such a chubby kid when I was little… because of those big feasts.
But I remember that things changed when Grandpa died [in 1975]. Grandma had a few more big meals at her house and later at the house that she and George [her second husband] had at Lashburn [SK], and the food was always good, but it was never the same. And then as the years went by it became too much work for Grandma to put on those big meals and they came to an end. And now we are all gathered here and it really has come to an end. Grandma won’t be making any more big meals.
Our hearts are broken because we are grieving. And we are also face to face with our own mortality. One day, it will be us inside this box. And on our own, there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t avoid death, or get around it or get through it. On our own, death is a hopeless end.
But we have a God who loves us. And the Bible tells us that God loves us so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Jesus came and wrapped himself in human flesh. He lived a human life just like you and me except that he did not sin. And then Jesus went to the cross to die to take away all your sins, all your guilt, and all your shame. And then, three days later, Jesus rose from the dead to give you a life with him that will last forever.
Jesus knew what it was like to grieve. And close friend of his died and as Jesus comforted his friend’s sister, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Do you believe this? That is the question that all of us need to answer, especially in our last day on this earth. And how we answer that question will make all the difference in the world. Without Jesus, it is a hopeless end. With Jesus, it is endless hope. With Jesus, death is not the end, it becomes a door. And when our life on this earth comes to an end, Jesus will take us by the hand and lead us through that door and up into the wonderful home which he has prepared for us in heaven. And in that home there will be no more sickness or pain, no more sorrow, no more crying and no more death (cf. Revelation 21:4).
One of the ways that the Bible talks about heaven is as a great heavenly banquet feast. Isaiah describes that feast this way: On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
Grandma knew Jesus. So while we grieve for her, we can also be joyful for her because she is enjoying that heavenly banquet feast right now. She sees Jesus face to face. We only see Jesus by faith. And if Grandma has any tears in her eyes, Jesus will wipe all of them away. So we can be happy for her. And as we say goodbye tonight and tomorrow, it is not goodbye forever. It is only goodbye for now. And I am pretty sure that heaven has something that is even better than popcorn balls.