At my knock, Joseph Venzi opened the door to his mother-in-lawís apartment and ushered me into a tiny kitchen.
"Marie is sleeping in here, Pastor," Joe said as he led me into her bedsitting room. "I hope you can help her--ummm, us. Marie has been saying the same thing for days. Over and over she repeats: 'I want to go home!' It is so upsetting to Cindy to hear her mother go on like this, especially since this IS Marieís home, and it has been for twenty years. See that door by her bed? It opens into our home. When they were younger, our children often passed through that door to visit their grandma. Now that Marie is dying, that door is always open, and one of us sits here, day and night. The hospice people say it could be any day now..."
I laid a hand on Josephís shoulder. "Marie has been part of our congregation for many years, Mr. Venzi--ah, Joe. I want to reassure you that Marie is at peace about dying. The last time I was here she told me she knows she will live again with Jesus in Heaven when she leaves her body here. The thought of death doesnít trouble her."
Joe shook his head. "I just donít know, Pastor. Cindy and I never really believed all that 'God and church stuff.' No offense, but it always bothered Cindy that her mother spent so much time at your church--not to mention Marie always dragging our kids there for one thing or another..."
"Well... Let me sit with Marie for a couple hours, Joe," I said, "--then you and Cindy could have a break. When Marie wakes up Iíll visit with her if sheís able, and if sheís not, Iíll just hold her hand and pray with her. I might read aloud from the Bible, too. I know Marie was always active in the Bible studies at church, and now I see how her bookcase reflects her love of Godís Word. Go ahead and run some errands with Cindy. I donít have any other plans."
"Alright, Pastor Jannson, weíll take you up on that," Joe said as he headed through the door into his home. "I hope Marie will feel like talking about this 'going home' thing. Weíre curious to know what itís about."
"Goodbye, Joe," I called as I sat down in an armchair next to Marie's bed. I reached over the comforter and grasped her fragile hand in both of mine. Marieís eyes fluttered open. "Hello, there, Sleeping Beauty," I said with a smile, "Are you finding comfort in the Lord today?"
"Why, yes, I am, Pastor Jim. And you?" Marie answered.
"Indeed! Heís always the great Comforter. Are you feeling up to conversation? I understand that Joe and your daughter, Cindy, are very concerned about your longing to 'go home.' As Joe pointed out to me, your home has been here for the last twenty years. Iím guessing that youíve been referring to your upcoming mansion in Heaven--right?--but since Joe and Cindy donít have your foundation of faith, they are confused by your talk of 'a home' they know nothing about."
"Yes, Pastor, thatís exactly the Home I mean. I canít wait to get there! It is so hard staying here when I know I will be free of this useless body in Heaven. It will be so beautiful and I will get to see Jesus face to face, and all my precious saved loved-ones will be there, and--oh, Pastor Jim, I want to go Home now!Ē
"Marie, it will be soon--all in Godís perfect timing. Have you told Jim and Cindy about your new Home being built in Heaven? Maybe it would give them peace to know your assurance concerning life after death. Would you like me to help you explain it to them when they return?"
"Oh, yes, Pastor, please do! Iím so concerned about them. How they need Jesus! --And Pastor, thereís something else..."
"Whatís that, Marie?" I said.
"Iíve always felt this world isnít really where I belong--that itís not my 'home.' If Jesus hadnít been my Savior, I donít think I could have made it through my many struggles. Itís like a goldfish we once had that jumped out of its bowl. There it was--flopping around, gasping for breath. I believe once Iím in Heaven Iíll finally be HOME, and able to stop gasping for breath!"
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