Being in foreign voluntary service often gives rise to tugs on the heartstrings. The two events that do so the most are funerals and weddings, not necessarily in that order. Last Wednesday, I was in Asuncion, helping a local pastor and his family reapply for their passports in preparation to going to the States for their oldest son’s wedding. Out of the blue, literally when you think about it, my cell phone rings. It was my older brother, informing me that our Grandma Coblentz, who had been in poor health for the majority of the past 2 years following a stroke, left her earthly shell and had departed for the Celestial City. Although I had known her health was failing, it was still a shock. Someone I had known, who had lived close by, who I had hoped to see again on this Earth, no longer was. I tried to imagine her in Heaven but I couldn’t do her justice. I could only view her in the body that she had here on this Earth and in Heaven, we receive no bodies. We have no concept of that body that we will receive. Then I pictured her with Grandpa and had to smile. What I wouldn’t give to see them two strolling the golden, glassy streets of that City together, arms linked and simply enjoying that place and one another. Grandpa stops, bends down on knees that aren’t stiff and a back supple and strong and picks a flower. Turning to Grandma, he gives it to her. She, in turn, with a heavenly light, beams at him with a face smoothed from all wrinkles and worry lines and laughs. No longer does the cancer push at her lungs…she can breathe and in response to the gift of new life and health, she breaks into song. Into that melodious song whose strains are heavenly. A song unknown and unfamiliar to me; one that I can’t sing….cuz I’m still down here.
Later, Benjamin sent this email. With his permission, I’m posting it here. Not only is this a more or less first hand account, it’s also a write on death and legacies from someone just as close to Anna Coblentz as I was. Here it is,
Grandma Coblentz died this morning at 0800. I was still at home, though ready to go to work, when the phone rang and Diane said that Grandma was dying. Neil and I both hurried over, but she had already passed on. A few minutes earlier, a marvelous sunrise had reigned over the eastern sky. Relatively few years ago, Grandma was a young woman with a long life ahead. Today I am a young man with a long life ahead. You get the drift.
I think back to Grandpa Coblentz. His name was Ben. Benjamin. Benjamin Coblentz. He lived through the Depression and participated in a spiritual revival in Holmes County. He was active in supporting missions. In some ways he was a sort of modern pioneer. He was and did many other things. Good things. But his life is over. Those who best knew him still remember him.
Together, Grandpa and Grandma raised a family which has since grown to form a sizable clan of uncles, aunts and cousins. Among these are individuals who have made marks and continue to leave a mark on society. Good marks. In both a foundational and extended sense, this is my family. These are my roots and make up a significant part of my identity.
Yet as I ponder the lives of my Coblentz grandparents, a twinge of jealousy rattles though me. If a man as good and well respected as Grandpa fade into the background so quickly, can I expect my legacy to fare any better? Is it important that my legacy fares well at all? Is a legacy important? Am I just being a proud worrywart to worry about such things?
We’re still thinking about Grandma daily. How long will that last. How long does a legacy or a memory last? The funeral is on Sunday at 10:00.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. EC 12:13
Life indeed does move on. And the longer it goes, the more reasons I find to long for Heaven. To be free, liberated from this Earth. To experience the joys of singing with angels. To stand there, bathed and enveloped in a atmosphere of pure, unadulterated, uncompromised, selfless love and to express, in token, that love in return. A song that the music group Hallel sings comes to mind. In it there’s this line……and the angels must be watching as He puts the final touches to a very special place……her place. On Wednesday, her place in Heaven was filled.