Last Breath On Earth – First Breath in Heaven

Rev. Kevin Airrington
I Preached this message at my mother’s celebration of life service. My long time friend Doug Gould of Foundations For Recovery MC’ed. Three people that I know of gave their hearts to Christ that glorious day!

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies…Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:10, 31

Good morning.  I think that all of you know me.   I am Doreen’s son, Kevin.  I would like to welcome every one of you to this celebration of the life of my mother who went home on her birthday, March 3rd.  As I told my children, “Nana took her last breath on earth and her first breath in Heaven.”   It means a great deal to me that you have come to join myself and my family in the bittersweet experience of recalling her 72 years of life and in sharing your own recollections of my mother.  Your presence here is important, for it is the memory of the friends who stood by me and our entire family during this time that will be a source of strength and consolation to all of us later on, during those inevitable moments of grief and emptiness.

Mom called me her SUN…her S.U.N. …it was her funny way of spelling son.  She told me she did this because I was the sunshine of her life.  I supposed that my sisters didn’t like this very much but amongst all you girls mom had to make me feel like I was special too.  When I was younger, I probably didn’t deserve that title with all the grief I gave dear mother.  Some of you have known me since I was a teenager and I would appreciate you not repeating any stories that you may recall, since my wife thinks that I have always been perfect.

Seriously, later I did clean up my act.  I did come to know the saving grace of Jesus.  This did not mean I was perfect.  In fact if getting into Heaven meant that being good was the standard I knew that I could never do it.  Mom saw the changes in me and so did some of you.  At one point mom was convinced I was in a cult.  Of course I wasn’t in a cult…but I think this was mom’s way of not committing to what I was doing at the time.  That would come many years later.

Just over five years ago tragedy would strike my family.  For unknown reasons I would become paralyzed, baffling the most educated doctors in a spinal cord injury hospital in Seattle and a trauma hospital in Boise.   Surrounded by family and friends…I never lost my faith…in fact I drew closer to my Lord.  At one point I nearly passed from this life to the next…I awoke in the cardiac unit…the only one at my bedside was mom.  They had machines hooked up to me and tubes down my throat.  Mom took my hand and she said softly, “I love you.”

After my release from the hospital mom began to do something I had tried to get her to do for years…mom begin attending church with me.  She sat in the back of the church, hoping no one would speak to her.   Then one service we had prayer for the sick…I wheeled my chair to the front.  The Pastor anointed my head with oil…he asked the church to pray as he laid hands on me and prayed that God would heal me.

After the Pastor prayed for me…I whispered to him and told him that mom had a tumor behind her right eye and asked if he would pray for her.  He asked if she would come up if he asked her to.  I indicated that I thought she would.  “Doreen!”  He said. “Would you like prayer?”  Mom flashed a glare at me and from clear in the back of the church I could almost see her gritting her teeth.  If I could read minds, I would guarantee she would have shouted, “Kevin what are you doing!!!!”  Finally, she looked to the floor, looked back up and nodded her head and she got up and made her way to the front…Mom stood next to me…the Pastor in front of her.    The Pastor said a few encouraging words and then he asked her, “Doreen, what would you have the Lord do for you today?”  Keep in mind this was a healing service…we just completed a study on healing…mom just watched people receive healings and others receive prayer for healing.  Mom didn’t go there for that…and leave it to mom to not always follow the rules…  Suddenly, without prompting,  mom lifted both hands in the air, tears began streaming down both of her cheeks…she looked down at me…then back at Pastor Adams and she said with stern determination, “I just want what my son has.”

Believe me I am nobody special…if anyone sees a person’s imperfections it’s a man’s mother and his wife.  My mother went from accusing me of being in a cult…to wanting what I have.  What a humbling experience.  That day mom did receive what I have…Pastor Adam’s took mom’s hands, still raised in the air and led her through a simple sinner’s prayer and she received Jesus as her savior.

Because of that moment…today she is in Heaven.

Last week, as we waited for mother’s graduation day, this seemed to be the most difficult time for all of us.  My daughter Rosebud was in her Nana’s room…. she became overcome with grief and emotion…She tried, even with her mother’s help to compose herself but she could not.  She started to sob and weep loudly…my wife, Kathy brought her out to me to try and console her.  After loving her and hugging her…we read some scriptures.  We read one scripture from 2 Timothy 4:6-8.  I explained that this was the journey that Nana was on right now and that it was the journey she was yet to take.  Rosebud wanted to go read it to Nana.  She went in and read it aloud to Nana.  The room broke into tears of joy…later Auntie Delores would remind us this was the verse grandma liked and also the verse that mama wanted us  to share today.  Rosebud would like to share that scripture with all of us now.

I tried to think of mother as she received her crown of righteousness from Jesus.  Sometimes mama was shy…sometimes she was forward and liked to run the show.  I don’t know for sure whether mom was shy or she was running the show the day she received her crown of righteousness.  But I know one thing.  As Jesus placed her crown of righteousness on her head…she had a great big smile on her face.  “Is this mine?”  She would have asked.   This must have also been during the reunion with grandma and grandpa and Uncle Emory and Uncle Mel and others that she knew and loved that went to Heaven before her and all of them had their crowns of righteousness on as they met her at the Gates of Heaven.  What a party they must have had.

One of mother’s favorite scriptures was Psalm 23; many of you know this passage.  Mama asked that we share Psalm 23 today.

                     The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

 

By the use of the imagery of a shepherd and his flock of sheep, David describes the care and the comfort which one of God’s sheep has in Him. He begins by describing the comfort and care of His Lord for him in life. He sums all of God’s care up in one phrase, “I shall not want.” There is no good thing that he lacks, for his shepherd cares for all of his needs.

In the agricultural imagery of his day, David describes the ways in which his Shepherd cares for him.

  • He Leads me besides still waters
  • He makes me lie down in green pastures
  • He leads me in paths of righteousness

David’s Shepherd does not leave him in death, however, so he goes on to describe the Lord’s presence in death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.”

Passing through death, David says, is like walking through dark shadows. He means to tell us that the experience is not a pleasant one, but that we, if we are one of God’s sheep, are to pass through death. He also tells us that the Lord is with us through this passing, so that we are not alone and we need not fear.

Mother told Pastor Adam’s she wanted what I had…and she received what I had with a simple prayer.  Today, I find myself wanting what she has.  Heaven, what a glorious reward…not for living a good life…but for personally trusting in Jesus Christ.   That’s what I want…what mother has.

The only questions which remain are: IS THIS HOPE YOUR HOPE? IS JESUS CHRIST YOUR GREAT SHEPHERD? The faith and confidence in the face of death of which the Bible speaks is not the possession of all, but only of those who have personally trusted in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death.  Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. He died in your place, bearing your punishment, so that your sins might be forgiven and you might live eternally in His presence.

Thank you.

Dearest Heavenly Father, the passing of mother brings emptiness into our lives.  We are separated from her and we feel broken…as we mourn the graduation of mother and we thank you for her life we also remember times when it was hard for us to understand, to forgive, and to be forgiven.   Heal our memories of hurt and failures, and bring us to forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ our Lord.   Bless our friends that have stood with us during this time.  We thank you Lord for your grace and comfort during this time of sorrow.  May Jesus Christ our Lord be with all of us as we close our Celebration Service for mom today.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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