Josie's eyes fluttered open, and her first thought was, "Awake and alive for another day!"
This was no small accomplishment--Josie was now 81 years old, closer to 82.
As she went about her morning routine, a constant stream of thoughts kept her company...
"I should water the plants. Then I'll bake some rolls, for the elderly ladies at church. I also need to try to go on my walk today. I had that funny pain again yesterday on my right side, and I just couldn't make myself walk a single step! Now, I've got a lot of little aches and pains, but this one scares me--it feels, somehow, SIGNIFICANT to me. But, I'm no doctor, Lord knows."
The mention of the Lord reminded Josie that she hadn't taken the time to praise Him just yet this morning, and she sat down in the wing chair to read a while from her slightly frayed Bible. The mid-morning sun streamed in and warmed her legs and feet, and she longed to get right down on the floor and curl up in the pooling sunlight like old Tripod used to do. She smiled at the recollection of her beloved but long-gone three-legged feline companion. She resisted the urge to imitate him, because she knew getting back up would be a big challenge for her now.
She finished the chapter and closed the Good Book, and her mind reviewed one of today's verses, one she had always found particularly vexing, Romans 5:5: And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
"Hope does disappoint me," she said aloud, and the tears began to flow. She was so lonely, and always hoped for a call, a letter, or a visitor to ease her solitude.
The cracking of her voice into a jigsaw puzzle of choking sobs stopped her from scraping the bottom of her soul any more for the moment, and the only sounds were the tick of the grandfather clock in the hall and her heartbreak, her weeping loneliness.
She pulled herself together and went on with her day, but felt bad about her childish outburst and selfish sputtering. She had lived a good life, a full life, and she knew she had been privileged, just because of having been born into a middle-class American home. She knew she was especially fortunate to have been born into a Christian family. How could she have survived without the Lord to lean on? And now she had, once again, treated Him so badly!
"Forgive me, Lord. I may have left school a long, long, LONG time ago, but this lesson, the one about hope, to hope even if it hurts, is a tough one for me. You know that. Boy, do you ever know that!" And a smile creased her face, because she had no doubt of His tender care for her, and His forgiveness.
Later that evening, as her thoughts turned to bedtime, she realized she had left the Bible downstairs, on the end table by the lamp. She retrieved it, and as she approached the top on her return, that pain hit again, and hit hard. She managed to sit down heavily on the top step with a grunting "Whuu" kind of expression, and leaned back against the wall.
She felt woozy, and couldn't concentrate on getting back up. She wanted to sleep, but had a dim sense that she wasn't in her bed. With all the strength she could muster, she turned her head toward her Bible, which had fallen open in her lap. She made out a phrase, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus... She tried to smile, and wondered if she would be meeting Him soon.
Another verse caught her eye: ...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... And, indeed, she was surrounded by many loved ones who had gone on before her: her little sister, lost to polio as a child; Great Aunt Mabel; and Albert, her Sugar Man! They all warmly greeted her, happily smiling.
As she lay dying, hovering between this life and heaven, she heard the grandfather clock downstairs chime midnight, and her last earthly thought was, "Oh, it's my birthday."
Her first heavenly thought, as Jesus welcomed her with open arms, was, "Now this is the best gift ever!"
(All scripture taken from the NIV)
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