I had planned a blog post on words. Words that, no matter how carefully chosen, cannot help me right now. I am convinced that words have never helped in a situation such as ours, with the exception, perhaps, of, "Lazarus, come forth."
And then I got a letter- a packet of letters actually, with a little note for each one of us. They came from a family that we had gotten to know through homeschooling, but hadn't known well because a new job caused them to move just a few months after we met.
The dad of that family sent me a note, and what he said touched me deeply. Yes, his words may have even helped. He told me that he had read Pilgrim's Progress. Have you read it? John Bunyan's classic tale of Christian, who leaves the City of Destruction and travels, through many dangers and adventures, to the Celestial City? I love it. I first read it when I was thirteen, and the images have stayed with me.
In fact, as Bryan struggled during his final week, the closing scenes of Christian's life kept coming to my mind. Christian and his traveling companion Hopeful both enter the river of death together, but what seems to Hopeful a shallow stream, is to Christian deep and terrifying. He suffers, but Hopeful tells him, "These troubles and distresses that you go through in these Waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses." And Christian arrives at the Celestial City in spite of his struggle.
(As a quick side note, one of the hospice nurses assured me that death is very often a long process, particularly when the person is young. Although we would all like to die peacefully in our sleep, the reality is that very few of us do. If your loved one had a hard time, don't despair. Such is the way of men, apparently. There is a reason that death has no place in God's perfect kingdom.)
But back to our friend's letter. He said that as he read the book, he kept waiting for the part where Christian would go back and get his wife and children, but then instead, Christian dies. But the story is only half over. His wife, Christiana, and their children, follow the path that her husband had forged. His legacy of leadership stayed with his family and carried on through them.
I can't tell you how much that analogy meant to me, because Christiana didn't travel alone with her little ones. She was accompanied by Great-heart, a character of great courage who is surely representative of the many members of our Christian family who come alongside those who need them.
So we'll follow in Bryan's footsteps, even though we had desperately wanted to make this journey together.
"His descendants will be mighty in the earth;
the generation of the upright will be blessed."