It quickly became obvious during our time together that we have all taken to heart Ben’s final words to us to “have fun in life and to make it all worthwhile”. One thing is for certain, we have learned not to take these times for granted! So as you can imagine, it was an absolutely blissful experience to share laughter, meals, nature walks, late-night games, theme parks, ice-cream parlours, beach and poolside fun together for a full week! It was better than I had even anticipated!
Although we didn’t plan our trip with Mother’s Day in mind, the Lord had very evidently set it apart for us. And, as always, His timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It was timely in that it was the first Mother’s Day that I’ve spent with all of my earthly children since Ben’s death. An added bonus was spending it with my daughter and her husband on her very first Mother’s Day. And of course I relished in and savoured every millisecond I could eat up with my 9-month-old grandson, Seth — our little redemption baby — brought home from the hospital on the anniversary of his Uncle Ben’s home going to heaven! Seth was a perpetual source of sunshine that even outshone the sun that blazed all week long in the clear blue Florida sky.The entire week was a very viable taste of heaven!
While experiencing this foretaste of glory divine, we also tasted some bittersweet moments, where heaven and earth mingled together at times when we least expected them. To begin with, unbeknown to us when we planned our trip, our departure day was the day that our son, Ben’s girlfriend, Sarah, would be wed to the man God had waiting for her in the wings. A day that I know for certain, at the time of Ben’s death, her longing heart would have never believed God would fulfill. We rejoice in the fact that God’s plan was bigger than any of us could imagine! Other elements of our grief were exposed in ways that made sense since Florida was the destination of our last family vacation. Various places would trigger never-to-be-repeated memories of days gone by that included our son, Ben, much less that all of our new memories will never again include Ben.
On one evening in particular, as we were traveling together in our rental van, playing tunes from the Christian radio station, “I’ll Praise You in this Storm” by Casting Crowns came on. This was our family’s theme song throughout the year that Ben battled his leukemia. A holy hush came over us all and we sat in silence, barely moving or breathing as the lyrics of the song reminded us of the profound truth of our journey. Without a word, I knew we were all transported to another place and time. Remembering together how the Lord carried us and taught us what it is to praise Him through the storms of life. How He taught us so many powerful and invaluable lessons. How His daily strength and sustaining love for us became such a minute-by-minute reality. And how we continue to praise Him for all that He continues to do for us as His glory story unfolds.
After the song was over, we all took a deep breath, carrying on in silence while the next song played. And then, without warning, just as we were all catching our breath again the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe came ringing through the speakers. No longer could I contain my tears as a longing too deep to describe overcame me; a longing that I have experienced many times over the past seven years when I am left to only imagine those things that Ben is already experiencing firsthand.
Although it’s hard to breathe through times like the one I described above, I’m thankful for them. They serve as reminders that there is so much more waiting for me beyond this life. I am fortunate to have been given glimpses of the life to come through Ben’s eyes as he faced his final days on this earth. He saw colours unlike any that exist here. He tasted cream puffs from the vast “smorgasbord” set before us at the Lamb’s banquet table.
I have a picture of Ben that was taken on his first day of school. There he stood at the bus stop waiting for his bus to take him to a place he had never seen, but had been excitedly anticipating all of his 4 years of life! What the picture doesn’t depict is that he had been standing at the bus stop waiting… for two hours before the bus actually arrived!
It is that same excited anticipation that stirs in my heart when I think of all the things that await me beyond heaven’s gates. My heartbeat accelerates as I stand at the proverbial bus stop, waiting for the day that I will be transported to the place my heart was created for; for the Lord has planted eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Here are some of the things I picture with the eyes of my heart:
What are the things about heaven that you are looking forward to with excited anticipation?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no one’s heart has imagined all the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9b CJB)
10 days before Ben was transported to heaven, he gave us a glimpse of where he was heading here.
Listen to “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe here.
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in London, Ontario, Canada.
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Contact Lisa at: firstname.lastname@example.org