|He sat in his favorite overstuffed chair. Pictures of his children and grandchildren hung on the wall. His wife of nearly 60 years sat not far away.
“It’s time to go home,” he declared.
My father-in-law had struggled with dementia for a long time. This once strong, funny patriarch couldn’t remember those he had loved his whole life. He didn’t know where “home” was anymore, even as he sat in the house he built and had lived in for decades.
Toward the end, this became a regular battle.
Finally, our family came up with a plan. When he announced he wanted to go home, someone would grab their coat.
“You are right, Jimmy. It’s time to go home.”
He’d pile in the passenger seat of his car, and one of his sons would drive him around. Upon returning, they’d enter the house, and he would be satisfied he was finally home — at least for a while.
In today’s key verse, Jesus announces He is leaving soon. His friends can’t imagine life without Him in the physical realm. It’s shaking up everything that makes them feel safe.
Jesus speaks into their troubled hearts with assurance:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3, ESV).
Their physical separation would be temporary; a beautiful reunion would one day take place. Not only that — Jesus was personally preparing a home for them so they could be together for eternity.
I’m not sure these followers fully understood what Jesus was saying, but one day they would. One day they’d step from earth to heaven and be at home with Jesus.
Last Christmas, my father-in-law’s disease worsened. Family gathered. Nearly 40 of us opened presents, laughed, cried and gathered around his bedside. A couple of weeks later, his struggle was over.
When the call came in the middle of the night, I lay in bed and tears fell. I was grieved to lose my father-in-law, but mine were tears of joy.
I imagined Jimmy strolling into heaven, with his ornery, funny self made whole.
I imagined him greeting his brothers and sisters, seeing his mom and his dad.
I thought about the moment Jimmy took his last breath here on earth and his first in heaven, and how he was welcomed by Jesus, with his restlessness put to ease. His joy greater than any of us could conceive. His mind and body freed.
As our family approaches our first Christmas without him, I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. We’ll sit in that same home with those same pictures hanging on the wall. We’ll open presents. We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. We’ll tell stories of how he once danced in the living room, or how he delighted in jumping out from behind things to “surprise” his daughters-in-law or grandchildren.
Yet underlying our sadness is the joy that Jimmy is finally home, and there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
Heavenly Father, losing a loved one is so hard, but that sorrow is especially hard during the holidays. We miss them for a season, but thank You for the truth that they are safely home with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.