I knelt down by my 7-year-old to give him a goodnight hug and pray with him. Every so often after Dan died, he wanted to make a pallet on my bedroom floor and sleep in my room. That’s where he was this night while we were saying goodnight prayers.
With my eyes closed, I listened to Matt pray. What a big heart this little boy had. He prayed as he had on so many other nights, thanking God for a good day and praying for all the kids in the world that needed help. Typical 7-year-old stuff said with such innocent trust. And then he closed: “Tell my dad I said hello.”
Tell my dad I said hello.
A thousand knives went through my heart. My mind wrestled with the brutal honesty of his words as I bent over to kiss the top of his head. Tears stung my eyes at the cruel unfairness that a little boy would even have to pray those words and I could see that Matt’s eyes were filled with tears too.
But there was also truth in Matt’s words and that truth brought some comfort. I had cried more tears over the last few weeks than I ever imagined a person could cry. Our days were filled with constant reminders of missing Dan. I’d instinctively reach for my cell phone to tell him some news and then remember. I’d hear the back door open and my heart would beat a little faster as it always did when he came home from work and then I’d remember.
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Every single routine in our family had an empty hollowness after Dan’s death. Dinners were eaten with plenty of conversation, but we were always aware of the vacant spot at the head of the table. No more rides in Dad’s truck to and from practice and no more evenings with the littles telling stories and giving them their baths. His briefcase sat just where he’d left it in the living room and boxes of his office stuff were stacked on a table in the garage.
Tell my dad I said hello.
And yet there was a connection. He on that side of heaven, we on this side. He in the presence of God and we still walking it out in faith. He face to face with God, we veiled from full glory.
Heaven had always seemed far off in time and space. It was a someday thing, very distant from our busy days filled to the brim with life. And then, it wasn’t.
During Sunday morning worship, I pictured what Dan might be doing right then. Dan, who Sunday after Sunday had been in church with us, was now in the indescribable majesty and awe of worship right before God our Father and Jesus, our Savior. I pictured the warm acceptance of immeasurable Love and the lavish joy, the sounds of an angelic host joining in worship, and the scene of unrestricted glory and adoration above anything I could even imagine.
There is a chorus of worship as if on two sides of a mirror. We could see only through the mirror dimly as we sang familiar songs and hymns, but Dan could worship face to face. We in our pew and Dan in the true tabernacle. All eyes on Christ; all part of one body.
The body of Christ is more than my local church or believers meeting around my city. It encompasses believers across denomination, across country, across ethnicity, across civilization and across time. It includes believers who came before us — an Ethiopian led to Christ by an apostle, those martyred under Nero, those who sought refuge on the shores of Massachusetts.
That was the comfort in Matt’s words. There is a connection. We continue to be part of the body of Christ. A 7-year-old boy gets it. To be absent in the body is not to be a black hole of nothing but is to be present with the Lord. Dan walks with God in fulfilled faith that side of heaven as we walk with God in hope-filled faith on this side.
Yes, Lord Jesus. Tell him we said hello. Much to do here, but we will see him soon.
You are…fellow citizens with God’s people
and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself
as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20
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