My name is Sariel. Commissioned by the Lord himself I was instructed to go assist another saint in transitioning to this side. Contrary to what is often believed, the soul is quite capable of finding its way home. Returning to The Creator is the most natural reflex saints have. Angels like me are sent as companions for the journey and often utilized to help them say "goodbye." As that is the difficult part in death. I was chosen for this transition because I am the angel that specializes in big numbers. This gentleman would be leaving a crowd of people who didn't want to see him go and would be greeted by a crowd who were anxious to see him again. With many friends and extended family, Tom also had a devoted wife, ten children, nine in-laws and twenty-six grandchildren who spanned two decades.
"Tom, my name is Sariel. I'm here to walk home with you."
"Then call me Doc" he said, as if he thought we should be on closer terms.
"Did you know that I have ten kids?" he asked.
"I did." I responded. "As a matter of fact I escorted three of them to you myself."
"I hope I remembered to thank you?" he questioned.
I assured him that he had. He was not a man of many words but was certainly known both here and in the celestial realm for having a grateful heart.
It was a Wednesday when I greeted him. I wanted to tell him that beginning tomorrow he would no longer be able to respond to them. He would, however, stay to listen for a few more days before we would leave.
"It's okay," he told me. "They know what I will no longer be able to tell them."
His wife, who we refer to in Heaven as 'the faithful one', had been sent an angel of her own years ago. That's what The Lord does for his faithful ones. His children were all there, hours after I arrived, when Tom took a turn for the worse. They gathered in the same room that they had run to in the middle of the night when they were scared little ones. They assumed their unspoken roles and fell into their unrehearsed rhythm. They each stood at the post of 'whatever it takes' while systematically falling into the reality of their sadness and grief. They came and left the room in a tag team of strength and weakness that was beautifully painful and painfully beautiful. For three days they kneeled around his bed, wanting desperately to hear his voice and realized slowly and with great sadness that it was gone. That unassuming, quiet voice of direction, love, and strength was gone. So they began to speak to him.
"Daddy, do you remember when you took us fishing?" Kelly trailed off in tears.
"Or what about the tennis lessons Dad?" Pat continued.
"I remember you frying chicken on Sundays after church." Mike added.
"Boy Scout meetings" Johnny chimed in.
"Ball games. You were always there. Coaching and cheering." Jimmy said.
"Working cattle was never much work with you." Ryan recalled.
"Teaching us to water ski at the cabin", "Camp outs", "OSU football games," and "Teaching us to drive" were also mentioned as they reminisced about time they had spent with the man who had given them so much of himself. The stories flowed as if they had all happened yesterday, and the feelings of family, love, and togetherness were palpable in the air. It went on for three days. They continued with memories, stories, laughter, tears and gratitudes. The faithful one laid there with her head on his shoulder, listening, praying and hoping. She hadn't moved in hours and had no intention of doing so. She would spend his final days exactly where she had spent the majority of her years: At his side. There were times of silence broken with more stories, comments, prayers, and scripture being read. Four or five of them laid on the bed with their parents while several were on the floor and in the recliner. Everybody in one room. They were there for each other as much as they were there for him. It was a room filled with absolute love, adoration, and immense sorrow. I hovered above as The Lord instructed to provide them His peace and His comfort.
"So much attention." I said to him. He smiled and shrugged, as if to tell me that this was the only attention that had ever really mattered to him.
They continued to operate in a symphony of strengths and weakness' meeting the needs of each other as well as Tom and the faithful one. There had been no assignments, no direction, no voting, and no manual. They each operated from a knowing of themselves and a deep knowing and belief in each other. Surrounding him and wondering how much longer they would be given. Not wanting to miss a single opportunity to love or appreciate him, they continued to talk.
"Thanks for everything you taught us Dad about living life well." the oldest began.
"Thanks for staying to walk me down the isle this year Daddy." The youngest daughter choked as she recounted the thirty eight years he waited and the steps they took together only a few months before.
"Thanks for the things you did for us, with us, and in spite of us." the other daughter whispered tearfully, knowing that most men do not choose such greatness.
"For your patience," the faithful one chimed in.
"For your kindness and generosity to everybody you ever came across." Tim profoundly uttered.
For giving us the love of Dave," Tom sobbingly said, "because it changed me."
They all sensed that the time was drawing closer. The two sons-in-law, John and Jerrad, were both there standing behind Tom's daughters, supportive and sorrowful. John who had been called Tom's 'best buddy' for years, had been part of this family longer than the four youngest children. He tearfully left the room after saying "I love you, Doc." Jimmy followed him. They hugged for a long time outside the room and returned together. Jerrad, although new to the family, had a sense of both loss and love as he stood quietly in the corner and wept. Two of Tom's daughters-in-law were there as well. It was difficult for any of them to stay away as they all had admiration for him. Liz and Kara, however, were able to get away to be a part of the homecoming. They stood in the doorway, quieter than Tom's children but right there with this man who had always assured them they were as much a part of the family as anybody.
"He has gifted us with this time" someone announced.
"He's teaching us how to die with dignity just like he taught us to live." Pat commented.
"Not much longer, Doc." I told him. And at that his breathing became more labored. He never wanted to leave when his family was together.
"It's okay Daddy." Kelly sobbed.
"Please Daddy, let go." Karen cried.
The labored breathing lasted for hours. They each tried to assure him that they would be okay, though none of them felt like they actually would. The only thing more painful to them than being without him was watching the pain he was now experiencing. For so many years Tom had been the one to hold them up and to help them through their pain, always putting them before himself. But on this day it was their turn. And so they lamented.
"Please Dad. Please." Ryan pleaded.
"Let go, Daddy." Tim wept.
Jimmy, who was resting his forehead on Tom's whispered, "We will take care of Mom, Daddy, I promise. It's okay."
Johnny began to pray, "Thank you, Father, for the years You gave us with him and all that he is to us. Help us to remember what he taught us. Lord, give us the strength to let him go and the grace to be able to move on without him. Make the pain stop and help him come to you in peace."
As an answer to that prayer, it was then that I reached through the realms of time and eternity and I touched their hearts. Jimmy stood and pointed at the youngest daughter, who had been at the foot of the bed crying, and motioned for her to trade places with him.
When she reached the head of the bed Missy's painful sobbing had stopped and with a graceful peace she began to sing.
"Jesus loves me this I know…."
Tom's breath gradually slowed.
"Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelu…" she continued in a soft melody.
The pain ceased and the peace that he had always known on this earth rested upon him just before he entered eternity. With the name of Jesus their Savior, in the form of a song sung in tremble, I took his hand and escorted him to this side.
After he had left them we watched together as they each lined up, kissed his head and told him that they loved him. Tom saw the sadness in their eyes but no longer recognized that emotion in any way he could define. He looked at me puzzled as I explained to him that he now lives in a place where the glory of God is so immense that sadness cannot be fathomed. With that, we turned and approached the other crowd that had been waiting for Tom. As he walked without limit and without pain the clapping began. Behind us, his family had lined the sidewalk as his body was wheeled out of the home. On either side of that concrete walk they stood in sadness and respect. They clapped for this man who had lived his life so well. And ahead, his loved ones lined a sidewalk made of gold to greet him in joy and respect for a life well served. He walked. They clapped. In unison the clapping from both sides of time resonated for this man who spent his life in simple service and profound love.
It is a rare honor to take this walk and to witness the peace and faith felt on both sides as a soul such as Tom's passes over. The family lining the concrete and the family lining the gold knew that the legacy Tom left behind was as tender and beautiful as it was solid and sustainable. And so they clapped.