On Monday of this week I preached the funeral for Barbara, my wife’s sister. She was 79.
They grew up in Texas, on Slaughter Road, a small blue-collar community on the west side of the Brazos River. It's off State Highway 36 at Freeport.
The houses were built by survivors of the Great Depression, with their own hands. While they were building their houses, they built a church, Calvary Baptist Church, also with their own hands. It was there that Barbara came to faith in Christ. In that same church, a young man named Vernon Bundick came to faith in Christ along with his brother, Bobby. Barbara and Vernon fell in love in the third grade when Vernon had his front tooth knocked out and Barbara thought he was irresistible.
They were married in that same little church.
In 1995, Vernon died in a tragic accident on their property. Their children were grown, and they had purchased undeveloped land for their dream home. In the process of clearing the property, a tree limb split and knocked Vernon from the top of a dozer where he was standing. The fall left him unconscious. He recovered but a few days later, a blood clot went to his heart.
He died in Barbara’s arms in a matter of minutes.
She found herself alone, shattered and broken. But through sheer determination, courage and faith, she fought her way back, developed the property, built a beautiful house, and dedicated herself to blessing others. Over the past 27 years, I watched her grow with a deep faith and a big heart, reaching out to family, friends and strangers.
My wife and I stayed at my brother’s house in Galveston to be near Barbara in her final weeks. I have had the opportunity each morning to go for sunrise walks on the beach. It seemed to me that the waves washing on the shore were like the heartbeat of the earth, echoing the heartbeat of the universe.
On Wednesday last week, she was no longer able to leave her bed. She struggled for consciousness, increasingly overcome by the cancer.
When we arrived at the house, she was awake. She was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. After she smiled and greeted her sister, I spoke with her. Her sparkling blue eyes had grown dull and gray. But her smile was still there. She whispered to me. “I am near the edge.”
I said, “Yes, you are.”
I said, “This morning I went for a sunrise walk on the beach. I stood there, on the edge of the eternal sea watching the sun rise in the distance, a great red ball rising among the broken purple clouds. I thought of you,” I said. “It is a beautiful place to be, on the edge of eternity.”
She nodded her head, “Yes, it is.”
I asked if we could pray. Again, she nodded her head.
"I would like that," she said.
We held hands - Barbara, me, her sister, her children and her grandchildren. We prayed, letting her go, committing her to the Father who first loved her and gave her to us. Her body lingered for two more days. It is difficult for the human body to let go.
I believe she heard another voice whispering in her ear, perhaps those tender words He whispered into the ear of a 12-year-old girl, “Talitha, kum, (Little girl, I say to you, arise.)” (Mark 5:41).
Email Bill Tinsley, who reflects current events and life experience from a faith perspective at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: On the edge of eternity is a great place to be