The following is a guest post, contributed by one of the OPEN Services team members in USA.
One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially since becoming a mother in 2021, is that there will be a “last” for everything. There will be a last time I rock my daughter “A” to sleep, a last time I buckle her into her car seat, a last time I swing her in my arms, pick her up, change her diaper… Some lasts are known – the last time she graduates, for instance. Some are unknown – the last time we have a tickle fight or jump on the trampoline together.
Lasts in the Last Year
The idea of lasts has become especially poignant since December, when we found out it would be my mother-in-law’s last Christmas with us. We savored that last holiday season, I took a picture of the last time she came out to the curb to wave us good-bye (of course not knowing if it would ACTUALLY be her last), and every time we went to her house, we would wonder: will this be the last time we see her? Most of those “lasts” were not unknown to us. We knew the end was coming, and we would have a last conversation, a last hug, a last smile…
That last day came, and when she passed into the arms of Jesus, one of my first thoughts was, “What was my last interaction with her? Was it okay? Was it good?” The last time I saw her, I had A in my arms, and we waved goodbye to Nana in the hospital bed in the living room, and Nana didn’t respond because she was already asleep and on her way to Jesus.
Lasts over the Summer
About a month later, the day before her funeral, I got a text from my dad: “Your grandma went to be with Jesus this morning in her sleep.” As I thought about my grandma that day, I remembered the last time I saw her—it was last September, and she was in Oklahoma in a dementia ward in a nursing facility, where she barely remembered me. I had gotten to give her a last hug, have a last touch, wish her happy birthday for the last time. A in my arms, we took our first and last selfie with my grandma and said good-bye.
The day my grandma died, I took a drive and cried. As I headed to Wendy’s to get my favorite comfort food (a chocolate Frosty and fries), I called my mom to cry on the phone to her. She said, “You’re on speaker phone with me and your dad. We’re headed to Oklahoma now to be with family.” We talked about Grandma, and how we had both lost our mothers-in-law so close together. My dad said, “Don’t go yet, let me pray for you.” And he prayed a beautiful prayer for comfort, reminding me that God collects our tears, that he doesn’t waste them, and that he is close to us in times of sorrow.
An Unexpected Last
The next morning, as I was making final preparations for my mother-in-law’s funeral, shouting for people to put on their shoes, making sure I had the diaper bag packed, reminding my husband of the order of errands we needed to run, I got a call from my mom. She said, “Make sure you’re not alone right now. Daddy died in his sleep last night.” A in my arms once again, I sobbed into my husband’s chest as his new shirt for the funeral absorbed my tears. My dad’s prayer for me the day before had been my last conversation with him. The trip where I’d gone to visit my grandma last September ended up being the last time I also saw my dad in person. Had our last hug. Ate our last meal together. Waved good-bye for the last time as we got in the car and drove away. None of those lasts were ones I had expected.
Over the next few days, several people reminded me that God collects my tears, that he doesn’t waste them. Some days, it seems like I’ll never get to the end of my tears, that there will never be a final tear shed for the people I’ve lost in this lifetime.
Jesus and Loss
But that’s not true, is it? Jesus came to live a life like us—full of suffering, tears, the loss of loved ones. He even lost his earthly father at one point. He probably lost his grandparents. We know he lost his friend. In the end, he was the one who died, leaving behind tears and suffering and sorrow. When his friends and family thought about their last memories of him, what did they think of? His bloody body hanging on a cross? Deserting him? Wrapping him in grave clothes?
Imagine what it must have been like then to see the resurrected face of Jesus and know for certain that He was their Savior! Imagine what it must have been like to feel their tears dry up, and their faith be made sight.
The same thing awaits us one day, because Jesus’ story—and our story—doesn’t end with the resurrection. The “lasts” of Jesus’ friends and family became glorious “firsts.”
Lasts in B4T
As B4T workers, the thought of Jesus our Savior is what motivates us to do what we do. We actually work for the “lasts”—the last day that an employee has to live without Jesus, or the last time our friend prays to a god other than the True God. We work so these lasts will become the glorious “firsts” of a life with Jesus and a relationship with God.
As much as we grieve having all of our “lasts” with our loved ones in the past, as much as we mourn the “lasts” that didn’t turn into “firsts” with the people we love and serve in B4T, we can look forward to knowing that the only “last” in heaven will be our tears. When we see Jesus, our resurrected Savior, I imagine him taking those last tears, putting them in a bottle, and bringing us into his arms, where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death. There will be no reason to apologize for getting tears on his good shirt or mascara on his collar.
No More Lasts in Heaven
There will be no more “lasts” with my mother-in-law, my grandma, or my dad. They have fallen asleep for the last time. We will enjoy each other and Jesus forever and ever. The anticipation of the “lasts” here on earth only has meaning when we anticipate the lack of “lasts” in heaven. There will be a last time you turn off the lights at your company, a last time you close the computer, a last handshake with the last employee. There will be a last time my daughter sits on my lap, a last time I kiss my husband, a last time I hear my mom’s voice on the phone. There will be a last time I fall asleep.
But because of Jesus’ incredible life, death, and resurrection, there are some lasts that will never occur. There will never be a last time we dance with Jesus. There will never be a last time we see the people we led to the Lord. There will never be a last time we hold our friends in our arms. There will never be a last time we hear the voice of our loved ones.
There will never be the last time we hear the voice of Jesus. There will only be a first, and then there will be forever.
Charity E works with the OPEN team in the USA. She lives in San Diego and is passionate about the Gospel, the color pink, and self-publishing. At OPEN, she works in the Recruitment, Communication, and Coaching departments. You can reach her at email@example.com.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.