Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and we are His, we are His people the sheep of His pasture. Ps 100:1-3
Her name was Kirsten and she was as full of exuberance as only a seven year old could be. As I entered the pediatric wing of the hospital I could see her bouncing on the bed with her long hair flying in a cloud around her shoulders. She was cheerful without a care in the world. Her Mom and other relatives were sitting in the corner talking amongst themselves.
It started sudden with headaches. Then she told her Mom she was seeing double. A quick trip to the Optometrist, who didn’t like what he saw and then an immediate referral to the Neurologist. She was scheduled for surgery the next morning.
I pulled up a chair and sat next to the bed, “Hey girl how you doing?”
“I’m doing good Pastor Ken. I’m kinda bored there isn’t much to do around here.”
We chatted for a few minutes. I asked her if she was nervous about tomorrow. “Nah.” She replied. Her biggest concern was that they would cut off some of her hair but she guessed it would grow back. I asked her if she wanted me to read some scripture. She opted for Ps 100, which I knew that she had memorized for Sunday School. Instead of me reading it we agreed to say it together. I said to her as she bounced on the bed, “How should we do it?”
“Let’s do it loud” she said. You know it starts with ‘Shout’”.
So together we recited the Psalm in voices loud enough to get everyone’s attention. She giggled and clapped as we finished. When I left she was jumping rope and counting to herself.
Early the next morning I sat with her father as we waited through the surgery. We were surprised when the surgeon suddenly came into the room. It was much to early for this type of surgery. He was brusque and looked very defeated. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke to Paul her father.
“We can’t get it. It is wrapped around her optic nerve and much bigger than we expected. If she wakes up, which I doubt she will, she will be blind.” It was as if we had been hit with a board. He said some other words and then he was gone. He was right. Kirsten passed through the gates of glory the next morning having never regained consciousness.
Our Montana church was bulging at the seams. Every seat was filled It was a warm service with much celebration mixed with a deep, deep sadness. We were sheep that had lost a precious lamb but even in the midst of our grief there was a sense of the “Shepherd’s” presence. We didn’t understand. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be but it was the way things were.
The graveside service was at the family pioneer cemetery in Hysham Montana. It sat on the slight slope of a hill surrounded by wheat fields which were just getting ready for harvest. As we stood in front of that little pink coffin I could see the gentle breeze blowing through the fields causing the wheat stalks to bow and sway. At the end of the service when all the words had been said Kirsten’s Mom, Ellen stepped forward and said, “My brothers and I would like to sing Amazing Grace.” Yes indeed they sang. Those four Montana farmers and ranchers with their weather beaten faces in their unaccustomed white shirts and outdated ties blended their voices in harmony with a grieving Mom and sang praises to the Lord. It was the most precious tribute I have ever heard. Kirsten’s death was not right…but yet there was a sense of peace and comfort as we clung to each other.
I found out later that Kirsten had been to see her Grandma just two weeks prior to the surgery. During the course of her visit Grandma and Kirsten went to this very cemetery and walked among the head stones. As they walked Grandma pointed out each name and how they were related to Kirsten. I am told that in the course of their walk Kirsten asked her Grandma if she was going to heaven because Kirsten was going , “ Because I know Jesus” and she wanted to make sure Grandma would be there too. It was well known that Grandma didn’t have much time for ”church stuff.” I don’t know if she changed her mind but I do know she heard the testimony of her seven year old grand daughter who soon would be in the presence of Jesus. It is interesting to see how God works. Here was the innocent faith of a seven year old shared with a lady who had lived most of her life apart from God.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues through all generations.