‘If I could turn back the hands of time’. Who knows why that particular song was Jeff’s favourite! What was it he would have changed if he really could have turned back the hands of time?
We were sitting in the Crematorium; the service had ended and the curtains had closed. A music CD started to play - it was that song, ‘If I could turn back the hands of time’. I had wanted to be strong, not cry in public, but the sentiments of the song were just too close to my heart. My sister and I had been planning a trip ‘up North’ to visit him and his family, but things kept getting in the way; family commitments, work, lack of time! Suddenly it was too late! There was no more time to tell our beloved younger brother, just once more, that Jesus loved him.
Death is devastating! Jeff’s death was totally unexpected. There had been no time to say ‘goodbye’ to someone we loved. If only we had put aside all other things and made that visit a priority; if only we had known his life was going to end so abruptly! There are many times in life when we say, ‘if only’, but death overshadows them all!
Jeff was born when I was eleven years old. Kicking and screaming he had entered our world and turned it upside down, angry little face red with fury. His tantrums never abated until he had exactly what he wanted, but I loved him with every part of my being. He was the most ‘alive’ and exuberant person I had ever known, a restless soul who lived life always in top gear, fast cars and equally fast lifestyle. His illness had slowed him down, yet we never imagined that we would lose him.
I had sent him a card for his 48th birthday and had written the Gospel message on the inside, along with the text. ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:30) NIV. I had felt sad, longing for him to give his heart to Jesus. We had talked for many long hours about the love of God and many times I had felt that he was so close to accepting our Lord and Saviour into his heart. But then he would ‘disappear’ for months, only to surface again with the same old questions, the same old witty remarks.
As we came out of the Crematorium my eyes were drawn to a bowl of roses on a stand, their sweet perfume filling the air around us. Jeff had loved roses! I was silently asking the Lord to reassure me that in his final moments Jeff had given his heart to Jesus. Several days later my sister mentioned that as she had been quietly praying and thinking of Jeff; the words of the chorus, ‘I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart’, had come into her mind and she had felt an assurance that he had indeed, ’walked through those gates’! It comforted us. The following Sunday we sang that chorus in church , yet we had never, to my knowledge sung it in our church before.
I believed that Jeff had finally found his Lord and Saviour, yet I still wanted something tangible to mark his memory. I thought about planting a rose in the garden, but I wasn’t sure if it would be right. I didn’t want to make a ‘shrine’, so prayerfully took it to the Lord and left it with Him.
A week later I walked into the Garden Centre. It was the final day of the sale and the place was cleared out; except for one pot standing alone where there was usually an abundance of roses.
“Oh thank you Lord! You saved a rose for Jeff.”
I walked over, glancing at the label as I picked up the pot. My heart thudded and tears flooded my eyes and ran down my cheeks, as I read that label.