Roughly 15 years and 50 weeks ago, I went to Cincinnati for the first time with my dad and sister for the PC (USA) General Assembly. My sister was a Youth Advisory Delegate representing Abingdon Presbytery, and perhaps my dad had a role there, too. I was long for the ride. More specifically, I was along for the drive. I had just gotten my learner's permit at the end of April, and in a few months I would have my full driver's license, so I was eager to get in as much driving as I could.
Little did I know how much driving experience I would get on that trip. Soon after we got to Cincinnati, a member of our church passed away, and so my dad and I basically checked in and turned around to drive back so he could preside over the funeral. I drove through the night while he slept in the car, and then while he presided over the funeral I slept at home. When he got back, I woke up and drove the 360 miles back to Cincinnati.
Now, on the eve of leaving for a mission trip to Cincinnati with some of our youth, I am potentially in a similar situation. Never would I have thought back in 1995 that, 16 years later, I might be making a round trip from Cincinnati back home to preside over the funeral of a member of my congregation - as pastor. Whew. But here I am.
This particular member has been struggling with Alzheimer's disease for the past 5 or 6 years. We never knew the vibrant and lively woman before the disease, but this past week, as I've been sitting vigil with her family, I've gotten a glimpse of this special woman's life.
On Monday I received a phone call that she was in very bad shape, and probably wouldn't make it past a few hours. I went right away, and talked with her caregivers and family, praying with them for what I thought might be the last time before her passing. It wasn't. It is now Saturday night, and as of my visit this evening, she is still breathing, and her family and caregivers, gathered at her home, continue to wait. She has been unable to eat or drink since Sunday, and we have all marveled at the strength of her heart, to keep her body going against all odds.
Of course we all know that it is a matter of time, and not much time; hence, I am prepared to make a day trip from Cincinnati during our mission trip to preside at the funeral and burial. Those around her keep asking, "What is she waiting for?" Her loving husband of 55 years passed away 2 1/2 years ago, and she has been looking forward to their reunion. She was not afraid to die, but she also believed that every day of life was a gift to be cherished. That is a difficult truth to affirm as those who love her watch and wait, each day, seeing her body slowly succumb to the disease that has ravaged her mind and body these past few years.
We all want her to go home, to be released from the disease that has taken so much from her. But we wait. I don't understand God's timing, and I have questions about whether this really is God's timing. The family says, "Well, God just keeps showing us that he is in control." And I believe that God is, ultimately, in control. But I don't believe that God has the need or even desire to show us that God is in control. While I believe that God is in control, I also believe that we are waiting - that God is waiting. We are still in the "in between" time - the "already and not yet," where we are assured that God has conquered all sickness and death, and yet our current reality is a world marked by brokenness and decay. I believe that just as God will redeem all of creation, so too, God will redeem time as we know it. Then time will really be God's timing, and all our waiting will be over.